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At Pitti Uomo in Florence, Put a Hat on It

Author: GUY TREBAY
Publish Date: 
Issued by Columbia, Victor and the Brunswick record labels (which had a No. 1 hit with it), “Puttin’ on the Ritz” was eventually sung on film by Fred Astaire and Clark Gable; revised by Berlin to replace the lyric’s resplendent black people with rich whites strutting down Park Avenue; and definitively entered pop culture as easy shorthand for dressing to the nines.
 
To understand how durably Berlin’s tune permeated pop culture, consider the story of Matteo Gioli, a 28-year-old musician from Pisa who played banjo, guitar and double bass in a retro-style swing band until 2010.
 
It was then he went looking for headgear as resplendent as that worn by the Harlemites of eight decades ago. And when Mr. Gioli couldn’t find what he was searching for, he and his girlfriend, Veronica Cornacchini, impulsively decided to go into the hat-making business. First knocking on the doors of what few traditional milliners remain in this Renaissance city, they eventually apprenticed themselves for a year and soon were turning out the first models bearing the label “SuperDuper Hats,” a phrase from the song.
 
“The lyrics say you’re ‘trying hard to look like Gary Cooper, super duper,”’ Mr. Gioli explained on Tuesday as he prepared for a fashion show featuring a collaboration with the designer Stefano Ughetti, a project sponsored by the far-seeing promoters of Pitti Immagine, sponsor of the twice yearly Pitti Uomo men’s wear fair.
 
Mr. Gioli’s and Ms. Cornacchini’s label had not even been incorporated when, on a lark, he submitted an application to show at Pitti Uomo. Their wares now are sold at Saks Fifth Avenue, Selfridges and 200 other stores worldwide and they are editorial darlings featured in magazines as disparate as Monocle and L’Uomo Vogue.
 
“I’m obsessed with the SuperDupers,” Bruce Pask, the men’s fashion director of Bergdorf Goodman, said in an interview not long ago. And it is not hard to understand why.
 
Mr. Gioli and Ms. Cornacchini are an irresistibly stylish couple — he with his lavish chin whiskers, newsboy caps and Irving Berlin era style of dressing; she with her luminous complexion, bobbed hair and fondness for wearing fox-fur chubbies. They are also characteristic of the kind of success stories likely to be generated at Pitti Uomo, which for all that it is an industrial behemoth — drawing more than 1,000 exhibitors and, as of Thursday, 30,000 visitors — remains a fertile ground for experimentation and discovery.
 
Beyond the more straightforward commerce crammed into this four-day fair, the Pitti promoters sponsor a wide range of events throughout, and beyond, the city center. To the seemingly unending round of store openings, fashion shows and cocktail parties in ancient palazzos, the ambitious schedule also has a participative performance piece by the fashion historian and curator Olivier Saillard and featuring Tilda Swinton; a spectacle created by the Hood by Air designer Shayne Oliver, held at the villa and farm belonging to the noble Miari Fulcis family; and collaborations such as the one involving Mr. Gioli and Mr. Ughetti, whose title is “Arrivo,” or arrival.
 
If SuperDuper Hat has not itself arrived yet on a grand scale, it is well along the path; the label produced more than 7,000 hats last year and has a thriving custom-order business.

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