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Menswear in Italy : Zegna

Style Statements for Men

Ermenegildo Zegna is today one of the foremost Italian names in modern menswear, with outlets all over the world and a wide diversity of lifestyle products for men. Zegna spells quality, discreet luxury and style: a well-dressed man can hardly afford not to have at least one Zegna in his wardrobe.

The Inception of Zegna

When Angelo Zegna, Ermenegildo Zegna’s father, set up a small spinning plant in the first decade of the twentieth century, little did he know that his modest enterprise would successfully pass on to the fourth generation of his family, and one day rule the world of men’s fashion.

Italian Man in A Zegna Suit

Out of Angelo’s ten sons, it was the youngest, Ermenegildo, who would go on to bring immense prestige to the Zegna name. The story of the Zegna family is intimately connected to the brand: it has remained a tight knit family business for nearly a hundred years now. Ermenegildo Zegna started working with his father in 1910, and emerged as the business leader of the family after Angelo passed away in 1923. But it was not until 1930 that Ermenegildo established a textile mill of his own. By this time he had a degree from a textile institute. He had already traveled extensively and was particularly inspired by the high quality of English textiles.

Zegna Elegance in Italy

Ermenegildo Zegna was keen on producing the best fabrics possible using the most advanced technology, and producing fabrics better than the English. To make his vision a reality, he imported the best English spinning machines and soon felt confident enough of his weaving techniques, choice of raw materials and designs to put his name on his fabrics as a guarantee of quality. This was a pretty unusual step for his time, and was well-received by his customers. The tradition of impeccable quality and continuous innovation for Zegna fabrics was thus established in Lanificio Zegna, which was founded in 1910 but truly came into its own around 1930.

Zegna fabrics and why they are some of the best

Zegna began with suiting fabrics and is considered a world leader for menswear fabrics even today, producing more than 2 million meters of fabric from its mill in Biella alone. This tradition of excellence started with Ermenegildo, who always put his customer first. Going against prevalent norms of not accepting fabric orders below 50 metres, he allowed tailors to order only as much fabric as they needed, and even invited many of them to see the production.

Zegna Fabric, Quality and Customization

But the two most important things he introduced which have now become an unshakable tradition with Zegna, are the choice of only the best raw material and continuous technological innovation based on customer needs.

Zegna is currently known to be the one of the biggest customers of top quality superfine merino wool and the best cashmere fibres derived from the Kasmir goat. It is also the biggest customer of South-african kid mohair which is the finest mohair in the world. Mohair is important for Lanificio Ermenegildo Zegna because it is a crease-proof natural fibre, and is eminently suitable for permanent press clothing.

But these raw materials come into their own only because of the constantly innovative use of technology. 15 mil mil 15 is a precious Zegna worsted fabric that is fit for royalty, as is Trofeo, both produced using the best merino wool fibers and techniques refined through experience and modern scientific knowledge. Traveller and Traveller micronsphere are other worsted Zegna fabrics well known for their unparalleled feel combined with total crease and dirt resistance.

Other fabrics from Zegna like Heritage, High Performance, and High Performance Micronsphere have helped wool evolve into a light, trans-seasonal fabric for menswear. They are ideal for suits that need to travel across different climates in quick succession, yet fashionable and classy enough to be used in couture garments.

Zegna suits: Ready-to-wear and Su misura

This excellence in the field of fabrics had been achieved in the lifetime of Ermenegildo Zegna, but soon it became clear that the Zegna customer base mainly consisting of tailors of men’s suits was beginning to thin out. Ermenegildo Zegna’s sons Aldo and Angelo stepped in to this challenge by starting off a business of high quality industrially manufactured ready made suits. Suits were becoming more of office wear than church wear at about this time, and coming from an already established Zegna brand it was not difficult for the brothers to establish Zegna Confection in 1968.

The ready-to-wear was successful because its relatively high quality at low prices was attractive for a large client base, and Zegna went into expansion mode. A venture into Spain proved successful, as did a new factory in Switzerland.

Aldo and Angelo then made a strategic decision to step into the field of made-to-measure suits: because with the disappearance of personal tailors, a suit made to a client’s measurements was much in demand. While going ahead with the ready-to-wear, the brothers did not lose sight of its limitations, and introduced an ingenious system of taking measurements at one station and precise manufacturing at a factory in order to claim the made-to-measure market, and thus was born the Zegna Su misura line.

Adrian Brody in Zegna suit

Su misura is one of the most prestigious names in the gallery of made-to-measure suits available today, because the combination of the latest technology and a rich heritage of Zegna experience has proven infallible. Su misura comes in two different varieties, the “Napoli,” that approximates the English silhouette and has a slimmer shoulder line; and the “Positano,” that emphasizes the shoulder and body, both with their own privileged fan following.

In keeping with the times: Zegna sport , Z Zegna, Z Zegna Essence

With the introduction of Z Zegna, a younger line for fashionable youth now designed by Alessandro Sartori, Zegna has created a niche where formal buttoned-up dressing meets casual cool, to create an appeal all its very own for the young and trendy.

As the family leadership at Zegna knows very well, it never hurts to expand your client base if you can do it without losing your individual specialties. Zegna has also introduced the aromatic and fresh fragrance Z Zegna, which recalls the unique blend of the old and the new that Zegna has come to represent.

Zegna Family

Zegna has gone on to have stand-alone stores worldwide, besides the Zegna fabric and suit being retailed from almost every prestigious menswear town in much of Europe, America, and now Asia. But that has not happened on the strength of Zegna fabrics and suits alone, though they are a formidable force in themselves.

Zegna has diversified into the Zegna sport which includes jackets , knitwear, beachwear, accessories, shirts and even denim with innovative, durable and exquisite fabric developments.

Zegna sport is a statement of comfortable, sportive elegance, always with that trademark hint of understated luxury. It is being championed by Eduardo Molinari in 2008, who says “Zegna style and technical performance fit my needs perfectly… for both golf and my private life”.

Zegna also acquired Lanerie Agnona Spa, a clothing and textiles brand which also works in womenswear, and this has further expanded the Zegna portfolio. The Agnona items are now retailed as Agnona by Zegna, and are almost as well known for their knits and woolens for women as Zegna is for men.

In 2002, Zegna formed a joint venture with the Salvatore Ferragamo Group called ZeFer in order to develop a footwear and leather goods enterprise. In 2006, Zegna entered an agreement with designer Tom Ford, in order to create the The Tom Ford Collection, which was first presented in Spring 2007.

In 2007, the brand was retailing through 525 outlets, out of which 253 are fully owned by Zegna. Zegna is the proud producer of 2.3 million meters of exquisite fabrics and 1.6 million sportswear pieces, besides products in other categories. The company brought in a turnover of 843.4 million Euro in 2007, and 2008 will only bring further growth in these figures.

What makes a Zegna a Zegna

At the bottom of it, Zegna is an ideal Italian institution, with strict vertical control from a family leadership that values honesty, quality, hard work, constant innovation, and team work above all else. A Zegna is a Zegna because of its tradition of quality and constant renewal, a tradition which has given the company the strength to become one of the most sought after menswear brands in the world.

By Damyanti Ghosh

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