Milan Fashion Week: Meet Uman's blue man group
On Friday evening, the night before the official start of the fall-winter 2011 menswear shows in Milan, the mood in a showroom on Via Gesu was decidedly blue -- as in neon blue cocktails, dishes of blue candy and white walls smeared with blue paint.
"Blue is modern and fluid," Umberto Angeloni told me as he brandished a 12-page booklet extolling the virtues of the color, which included quotes from Baudelaire and Bukowski and references to Pablo Picasso and Yves Klein.
Angeloni is best known in the menswear business as the longtime chief executive at Italian suiting label Brioni, and he is the creative force behind Uman.
"I left Brioni in 2007 and cashed in my shares and watched as the whole world started to crumble," he told me, referring to the toll the global economic crisis took on the world.
"Then I decide to start something that questioned all the basic tenets of menswear that have been in place since World War II. Really ask, 'What's behind a piece of clothing?' "
And when Angeloni says basic tenets, he means it -- right down to the traditional shape, sizing and silhouette of the men's suit, the proportions of which were based on the soldiers of the day. "The right arm was a slightly different size because of all the lifting of the rifles," Angeloni offered by way of example. "It hasn't changed at all since then."
Angeloni pointed out the mannequin built to Uman specifications. "He doesn't have a low shoulder, but it's not a square one either, and he's a bit more muscular."
After extensive research taking measurements of what Angeloni calls "the modern man," Uman (referring both to "human" as well as the first to letters of Umberto Angeloni's first and last name) was launched in 2009. It's been in the U.S. just since last season, where it is sold exclusively through Barneys New York (including the Beverly Hills store).
The core of the collection is the Uman take on the basic blue suit (which retails for about $2,500), and each season will see the addition of three more jackets (each of which retails from $1,00 to $1,500).
The three pieces added for fall-winter 2011 are the Corsa (Angeloni's take on the car coat), the Canada Mack (think luxe lumberjack) and the Knitta (a knitted jacket inspired by the knitted outerwear pieces worn by sailors). And they're available in any color you'd like -- as long as it's blue.
Each jacket is sold with a companion essay book published by Skira that discusses the style ("Telemark" holds forth on ski-influenced menswear, for example, and "After Dark" discusses the history of the tuxedo) as well as a wardrobe book that describes the specific details of each garment (pleats, patterns and such).
It's a clever addition, and it gives men a sense of ownership and knowledge most wouldn't otherwise have. Sure it's a stereotype, but if a guy won't stop and ask directions, what are the chances he'll take the time to learn about the garments he's wearing unless you put the book in his hand?
The fall-winter collection might be a bit heavy for the average Southern California consumer, but keep an eye on Uman moving forward; Angeloni's blue period is just beginning.
-- Adam Tschorn in Milan, Italy
Photos: The fall and winter 2011 additions to the Uman suiting collection are (at top, from left) the Corsa, the Canada Mack and the Knitta jacket styles. At bottom, the blue suit at the core of the Uman collection. Credit: Uman.