From a scene of ornate Venetian glamour, Ermenegildo Zegna celebrated the second chapter of its ‘Defining Moments’ global advertising campaign, starring Robert De Niro and French choreographer and dancer Benjamin Millepied, with an exclusive Venetian Night hosted by Alessandro Sartori. The brand took over the Palazzo Loredan dell’Ambasciatore, a 15th-century Gothic edifice that sits on a nook of the Grand Canal, overlooking the flow of river traffic like an Italianate contessa.
Sartori and Millepied were joined at the event by Francesco Carrozzini, director of the campaign and photographer, accompanied by Bee Shaffer, with additional guests Pietro Valsecchi, Riccardo Lanza, Raimondo Gaetani, and Federico Cianferoni among others.
The brainchild of designer Alessandro Sartori, who last year took over the reins as creative director of the Italian house, ‘Defining Moments’ is part of an ongoing series. First introduced for the Spring Summer 2017 season, the Fall Winter 2017 campaign represents an evolution of the acclaimed global multimedia advertising campaign, which reflects the emotion and community-centric voice that Ermenegildo Zegna has authenticated through its brand statement.
Here in Venice, we took the opportunity to talk with Alessandro Sartori and Benjamin Millepied about the ongoing ‘Defining Moments’ series, together with getting an exclusive glimpse into their personal lives.
Today we are in Venice to celebrate the second ‘Defining Moments’ advertising campaign, what made you choose this location?
ALESSANDRO: Because it is a place with good energy and we feel very good here.
The initial campaign was aimed to bring a dialogue between two generations, which today can be a struggle for some brands. How do you handle this challenge?
ALESSANDRO: Because of the nature of the brand and the type of clothes I love to design, we are about a multigenerational story. I like the idea of being part of a cluster of people with many different nationalities and ages, and I like to meet customers as I discover a lot of stories. So, it is not hard for us to cater to different generations, as that is the nature of the Ermenegildo Zegna brand.
Tell us about this current collaboration?
BENJAMIN: To me, it really is just a continuation of our long-time ongoing collaborations. The more time we spend together, the more we inspire each other in different ways from project to project.
Can you share with us your thoughts on this collection?
ALESSANDRO: The most interesting moment for me is seeing people leaving the store with one of our items, as I try to understand the customer and what they think. I like how the collection represents my style, and is about the fusion between modernity and craft.
Can you describe the Ermenegildo Zegna aesthetic?
ALESSANDRO: I like the idea of mixing tailoring and sportswear, or classic rules with a modern approach and silhouette, which is why I am not shocked to blend beautiful cashmere jogging trousers with a handmade jacket. It is about being stylish, but still yourself.
What is luxury today in the world of social media?
ALESSANDRO: I prefer the idea of an organic project, which is a broad and real story with all the chapters, including digital and print. Luxury is not just focusing on social media as that is what sells.
What is your personal motto?
ALESSANDRO: I try to be happy with what I do, motivating myself and my team, which is why I find it hard to stop.
BENJAMIN: Ideally it is to be able to take in as much as possible to enrich myself, as it is hard to keep creating without taking time to see and read a lot, to take in the world.
The brand is all about authentic values. What are the most important values that you have learnt from your parents or would want to pass on to your children?
ALESSANDRO: My joy for what I do comes from my parents, and the way of giving, so I would say that they have taught me to live in the moment with a good pleasure of what we do, and to be able to transfer that to other people.
BENJAMIN: I would like my child to be kind, open and not judgemental.
What do you hate most in life?
ALESSANDRO: People with closed opinions.
BENJAMIN: A lack of empathy.
How do you balance work and family?
BENJAMIN: Because my wife, Natalie Portman, has a big career, we really try to ensure that we don’t work at the same time so that one of us is always with the children. We don’t do the same thing, so our careers are enriching for one another, and we bring different people into our lives.
What other projects are you currently working on?
BENJAMIN: Building my dance company, as although it has existed for five years, we are now expanding and opening a new space in Los Angeles. I am also directing a film next year which is an adaptation of Carmen.
What inspires you?
BENJAMIN: Human nature and relationships. My ballets have been an expression of this in time, representing people and the way they interact in a modern way. I want my ballets to be strong and real experiences with more emotion.
How would you define ballet?
BENJAMIN: Ballet doesn’t have to be old fashioned, it can represent how people are today. You should think of ballet as pushing the physicality of the human being to the extreme, but it must be completely expressive of emotions.
What do you still aim to achieve?
ALESSANDRO: I am very happy at the moment as the studio at Zegna is now complete and I love the energy, but I still have a lot of projects in mind and I can’t think about just one.
BENJAMIN: It is very much to create a long-lasting organisation, not just a project but a performing arts organisation. I also want to continue to choreograph and direct more films.
How would you like the world to remember you?
BENJAMIN: I would like to make people’s life interesting with my contribution to the arts, and also have a deep impact on the community in LA with the opening of my new company.
ALESSANDRO: For the work I do, the style I do, and the way I do things.
By Lara Mansour Sawaya