The invite came in the form of a vintage postcard from L.A. The backdrop was a Fascist-era cigar factory that looked just like a Hollywood back lot or a Broadway stage. With classic show tunes playing as guests took their seats, it seemed like Band of Outsiders' Scott Sternberg had taken his invitation to be guest designer at the 80th edition of Pitti Uomo in Florence as an excuse to celebrate America's historical global domination of the business of show. And there was no doubt about it once the spotlights dimmed, the classic intro from West Side Story's "Jet Song" clicked into gear, and energy erupted as rival teams of dancers expertly re-created that musical's gang warfare scenario.
Pitti offers guest designers an opportunity to be creative for the sheer merry hell of it, and Sternberg stretched it to the limit. His years of toil in Hollywood left him with a fully evolved impresario gene, but his presentations in New York have often been master classes in extracting maximum impact from minimal settings. Here, however, he let his inner Busby Berkeley fly, so enthusiastically that it felt like something he'd been dying to do for years. Even the process of casting his Italian dancers (two days from first audition to opening night!) was, according to Sternberg, like something out of A Chorus Line. "Indulging my boyhood fantasies," he called it.
There were three collections of clothing integrated into the spectacle: the men's range for Spring 2012, the Resort looks for Boy (Band of Outsiders' women's range, reviewed here), and a handful of outfits from Girl. Maybe it was the Italian setting, but Sternberg's revisioning of the all-American boy had a distinct hint of the Via Veneto: The trim white suit, the double-breasted blazer over white jeans, the double-breasted pinstripe, the sunglasses at night, and the ice creamy color accents told a retro Euro-tale. The hoodies, the cutoffs, and the zinced lips felt much closer to home. If there was a significant development, it was surely in the sizing, more generous to reflect Band's burgeoning growth.