The plane comes to a stop on the runway, it taxis into the terminal in Pisa, now just a short bus journey until we finally get to Florence for Pitti Filati yarn fair. This fair is held twice a year, and is where buyers, designers and yarn spinners flock to for the latest in yarn and knitwear trends and innovation. Off the bus and we’re into the tourist information centre finding ourselves a map of the city and start to find our bearings.
Once we’ve dropped our bags off at the hotel and freshened up, it’s time to find some food. I’m hungry for all the pasta and pizza I can find at this point! We’re sat outside the restaurant at a table virtually on the road, Vespa upon Vespa zipping past and parked up lining the street. While we’re eating we’re planning for the next day, searching the map to find out where we are going, what time do we need to leave the hotel by, excited about the things we might see, the people we might bump into on the way around. We pay the bill and then we are off around the streets of Florence centre, taking in the sights and atmosphere of the evening. Walking with gelato in hand and looking in the windows of the designer stores, all lit up in the dimming light of the evening.
The day of the fair has finally arrived. After the hotel breakfast we start walking towards the venue. The gates are still closed to visitors when we arrive and we are kept waiting outside. Tickets scanned, lanyards on and the buzz of the crowd growing. We walk through the grounds and into the main entrance. There are multiple rooms, filled with stands of yarn spinners, agents and swatch design companies. We head to the swatch stands first and I’m reminded of the days I worked for a swatch company in Nottingham as part of my university placement year. My swatches would have been brought to a fair like this, as well as New York and Paris, with all these people around to look at them. Now I’m here looking for inspiration, looking from the other side, and it’s plentiful. The stands are piled high with swatches and we’re ferreting through them, trying to take sneaky photos. Each stand has a different handwriting; some might concentrate more on colour, or stitch patterns, yarn interest, some more colourful fun graphics, others more formal. It’s like I’m a kid in a sweet shop, but unfortunately I can’t take them home with me.
Walking through the fair I bump into a few old uni friends. We manage a quick hug and catch-up on what we’ve been up to since we graduated, (a couple are working for retailers Hugo Boss and Superdry and another is working for a swatch design company) before we’re off to the next area/yarn spinner meeting. We sit down with yarn spinners, beautiful concept swatches hanging up around us and yarn books stacked up on the desks. I could easily get carried away, there’s cashmere, alpaca, silk, viscose, neps, ropes, twists, lurex, all in multitudes of colourways. “Can you send me sample cones of this?”, “how much is this one?” and “what’s the MOQ?” all questions ringing around the room.
We finish the fair with a walk through the exhibition, a collaboration of yarn spinners and designers showing the yarns off to their fullest. There are loads of mannequins wearing concept garments and knitted artwork hanging from the ceiling. This is another brilliant opportunity to get some photos to take back to the office to inspire everyone else and remind us of everything we saw.
We had been handed a flyer on the way in the morning about a vintage fair, so with feet and backs sore from walking around all day, we walk there slowly. Halfway there we are reduced to looking like drowned rats being caught in a rain storm and trying to run to any shelter we can find. We soon dry out whilst walking around the old warehouse building. Rails of vintage dresses, shirts, skirts, jumpers and coats fill the front half of the building, with boots, shoes and handbags on racks and jewellery in cabinets. This wasn’t in our plans for the trip, but has been an added bonus!
We head back towards the hotel and out for dinner, trying to take in everything we have seen in the day. We start trying to group photos into themes and trends on our phones, creating boards to be able to use when we get back to the office, otherwise I’m sure we would forget things. Then it’s time for some sights with more gelato, taking in the Duomo, the carousel in Piazza della Repubblica, David (ofcourse!) and walking along the river to the Ponte Vecchio.
It’s the last day of the trip and we fly back to the UK in the afternoon, just enough time to fit in a quick walk around Pisa. We walk down what looks like the high street, calling into almost every other shop to see what socks the Italians have to offer, buying a few packs to bring back to the office. Then it’s over the river for the must have pic holding up the leaning tower of Pisa!
Trip complete its back to the airport, where we see a lot of familiar faces from Pitti, some of which look a little worse for wear from the after parties. On the flight, we are getting our heads together, planning follow up meetings with yarn spinners, getting trend boards made up to design from and to show our customers, and what we need to ask Techno Graham to work on in terms of knit structures and techniques which we can translate into socks.
Sat on the plane is a lady to the side of us who has caught our attention. She had been back and forth to the toilets when we were sat in the departure lounge. She’s now sat on the air hostess seat with her head between her knees feeling sick, not owning up to the fact that she had a skinful the night before. She moves back to her seat for us to land, and St John’s Ambulance paramedics are brought on to the plane to check her over. The rest of us have to remain seated until she is looked over. Finally she admits she is just hungover and we are allowed to get off the plane and go home. Yarn fairs are clearly just too much fun for some people to handle!