Rodarte, Band of Outsiders Designers on Pitti and Working on the West Coast

Donna Alberico

On Wednesday, the Italian Trade commission hosted a special luncheon for Pitti Uomo and Pitti W -- renowned trade shows that take place in Florence in June -- that highlighted some of the new additions to this year's lineup, as well as feted Pitti's special guest designers, Rodarte and Band of Outsiders. Rodarte will be showing a collection that Laura Mulleavy (one half of the designing duo) described as "very special" -- the first, in fact, unique collection that the label has created outside of their regular lines -- while Scott Sternberg will be presenting a whopping three collections: Menwear for Spring 2012, and resort for Boy and Girl, the label's diffusion lines. (As he put it: "Dude, it's pretty intense.")

This year marks the 80th edition of Pitti Uomo (the men's trade show), and the eight year of Pitti W (the women's). To celebrate the occasion, the organizers have added a few new elements: The first is "Guest Nation," in which Pitti honors a specific country -- this year is Brazil -- and invites their up-and-coming talent to come and show in Florence. Second, the show is seriously upping its online ante with the launch of e-Pitti, which will host information on all of the various shows, and will be populated post-show with "a catalogue of 10,000 products," according to a release. The online element apparently will also include some 40 bloggers, who'll be flown to Pitti to celebrate with Luisa Via Roma and Sarah Jessica Parker.

One of the most interesting aspects of this year's guest designer selection is that both labels are actually from the west coast, a fact Pitti reps were quick to point out as intentional when the names were first announced back in March. So what, exactly, is so magic about the West Coast right now?

Scott Sternberg was quick to point out that Rodarte and Band of Outsiders are, to be fair, labels that "play in the New York field." But he nonetheless understood what had captured Pitti's interest about both his work and the Mulleavy's:

"There's a free approach to how we look at shows to how we look at press to how we look at everything we do. I don't have magazines breathing down my back to go to parties every day, and I don't have party pic people taking my picture, so nobody knows who the hell I am. There's a freedom to what we're doing, and I think it's reflected in the product, and it's reflected in the brand. I think that's what their responding to. We're not referring to fashion. I'm not around fashion people. My references aren't fashion references. They're movies, they're things in my life."

At the same time, Sternberg also expressed a certain amount of satisfaction in taking part in something like Pitti Uomo, which has such credibility in the industry, especially in Europe. He noted that the majority of the emails he received as congratulations after his guest designer stint had been announced weren't from the fashion set: "It came from, like, the guy making my sweaters."

Laura Mulleavy also focused on the convergence of influences one finds out west that are very unique Los Angeles and the surrounding area. "The art landscape is right on top of the music world or the film world or all the science or research that they do. It attracts people, like younger minds, because the living isn't as expensive, and people are really using the landscape and the history of the city ... And I think that feeds into fashion in a strange way."

All that said, don't expect Rodarte or Band of Outsiders to start showing their collections in Los Angeles instead of New York. "It's not the space for fashion that way," Mulleavy told us. "It's different. I live and work and create there, but Los Angeles isn't ... it's not trying to replace New York. The city of New York lives and breathes fashion in a very large community, in a large way ... We feel at home showing in New York, at least."

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