There’s nothing like the laughter of a child to make you smile in the morning. As I woke up, atypically late and groggy, on the morning of the second day at menswear trade fair Pitti Uomo, I could hear Rocky, the son of accessories designer Alice Walsh of Alice Made This, giggling in the living room. He was being read a book, and clearly found it hilarious. Sitting around the breakfast table, watching, were his mother and father, Ed, and Samuel Bail from bag producer Troubadour.
Despite the beautiful backdrop of Florence, Pitti Uomo can be rather hard going. For four days, there are meetings and stand visits all day, plus drinks and dinner (effectively more meetings) at night. Having Rocky around was a wonderful contrast, a reminder of the wider world.
Alice and Ed, of course, had it much harder than me – they had to set up the day before Pitti opened, pack everything away afterwards and take Rocky to and from daycare. Every day they were on their feet answering questions. (Well, Ed was; Alice was heavily pregnant with Rocky’s younger sibling, giving her a very good excuse to remain seated.)
The company they run, Alice Made This, has become steadily more prominent in recent years. Alice studied furniture and product design at university, and launched the business with the aim of producing accessories that displayed industrial processes she had grown fond of over the years. Handcraft has a lot of fans, but the elegance and variety of industrial engineering are rarely celebrated.
The result of Alice’s work has been a growing range of men’s accessories that are both highly original and strikingly modern. Beyond the cufflinks (£95-£2,100) and tie/lapel pins (£85-£560) that have been previously eulogised on Howtospendit.com, there are belts (examples in first and second pictures, £175-£245) with steel and brass buckles manufactured using nanotechnology. Engineering from the aerospace industry is used for a collection of bracelets (£125-£145), and a die-and-tool set produces designs echoing military hardware.
Interestingly, in recent seasons Alice has expanded into handcrafted processes, such as goldwork embroidery (best seen on lapel pins, £175-£220). This can be risky for a small company with such a clear philosophy, but the results are oddly in tune with other collections – perhaps due to the attention to detail on each piece, whether it’s the accuracy of the ceramic work or the naturally flowing lines of embroidery.
In Florence, it was lovely to see buyers appreciating these details when they stopped by the stand. The introduction of bracelets and belt buckles alongside existing cufflinks and links was also going down well.
Walking back with them to the apartment, after a long day at the show, I felt rather jealous that they would soon see Rocky, with his wide-eyed joy. Perhaps everyone could bring their kids next year. Coffee at the swings, rather than cocktails at Gilli’s?