"I want to get into my collection some happiness." It was a surprising admission from Kolor's chief engineer, Junichi Abe. The Japanese designer is not usually morose—sartorially or personally—but his clothes always radiate a tweaked, mad-scientist cleverness: thought more than feeling. His good mood took the form of print, a brave new world. "I never use print. I don't dislike print, but I haven't liked it before," he said. But vacation does funny things to people. He'd never been to Florence before the invitation from Pitti, and while all of his fabrics were already in development—Kolor creates all its own, from the crunchy, papery treated nylon that gave Bermuda shorts some heft to the profusion of florals on cotton organza—the new surroundings seem to have coaxed a sunnier new disposition. His colors, in fact, felt a little sun-bleached: light blues and salmon oranges accented his usual palette of dark neutrals, as if they'd been fading, along with the rest of Pitti's wilted attendees, under the day's blazing Tuscan sun.
In any case, flowers were blooming everywhere, covering double-breasted suits, panels of Abe's new, baggier shorts, and short-sleeve Hawaiian shirts. He is loath to overexplain his collections—"No references," he said backstage. He managed to find for his venue what might be Florence's most a-referential space: an old, stone pelote basque court, seemingly selected to counterbalance all the historic associations of Florence's palazzi. You find yourself sleuthing out your own: Are these slightly crumpled men tropical explorers? Castaways? (Just then, a bucket hat à la Gilligan happened by.) There are no answers. Only the quiet sweetness of clothes. In past collections, that quiet had been pierced by a shock of oddity or surprise, often a blast of electric color (lime green, orange). That would have been welcome here. "Reality is very important," Abe said. "But too much reality is boring. I need some fantasy." The fabulously beaded flower sandals—fantasy and oddity in equal measure—fit the bill.