Ermenegildo Zegna has social and environmental responsibility is its roots, with sustainability being a key value of the House since its founding 110 years ago.
Founder Ermenegildo Zegna had a vision to preserve the nature around the House’s headquarters in Piedmont, Italy and to use the most exclusive fabrics in the world, sourced and created in a way that would give back to the planet. In the 1930s he planted 500,000 trees in an area close to the Zegna wool mill. This area, now known as OASI Zegna, became a fully protected nature reserve that invites people from all walks of life to come and experience its beauty. This year, as the House celebrates its 110th anniversary, Zegna encouraged its clients to become part of this special story, inviting customers to become active supporters of OASI Zegna. As a token of the brand’s promise to the environment, the House invites clients to purchase an engraved wooden heart made from fallen trees in OASI Zegna. This special symbol is a sign of the brand’s contribution to the ecosystem and a mark of its legacy and love for the land.
This Fall, Zegna also continues its commitment to #UseTheExisting, a vision for sustainable luxury. This is a topic that is very close to the heart of Zegna’s Artistic Director Alessandro Sartori. #UseTheExisting uses pre-existing and post-consumer fibres that are reworked for a new life in a
#UseTheExisting garment. This constant project is about creating a new mindset for luxury fashion that is about reinvention and also makes the dream of zero waste a possiblity. To find out more about how the brand is building for a better future, we talk to Zegna’s Artistic Director, Alessandro Sartori.
This year marks the 110th anniversary of Ermenegildo Zegna – how has the vision of the brand developed over the last century?
Ermenegildo Zegna is a worldwide leader in luxury menswear. After 110 years, the Group is run by the 3rd generation of the family, continuing the vision of the founder: a sustainable development based on the ethical production of the finest and most exclusive fabrics in the world through constant innovation and sourcing of noble fibres directly from their markets of origin. Giving back has always been a part of the Ermenegildo Zegna Group’s mission. When Lanificio Zegna; the Zegna Wool Mill, was founded in 1910, Ermenegildo’s dream was to make his hometown a better place. He dared to launch an extensive reforestation project in the hills surrounding the Lanificio, guided by a philanthropic vision and unwavering attention to the community and the environment.
The purveyor of timelessly modern clothing continues to be driven by the commitment to the highest quality in fabrics, garments and accessories. Under my artistic direction, we continue to evolve this progressive “crafted modernity” aesthetic, while building a seamless online and offline customer experience and integrated omnichannel e-engagement strategy – powerful elements that define Zegna’s identity and its 110 years of excellence.
In light of what has happened this year – have you changed anything within the production and the company moving forward?
I think that our actions today will impact our tomorrow and we have to use this moment in history to consider what our legacy will be for future generations. At Zegna, we endlessly honour the legacy of our founder. His pioneering approach drives us in everything we do. The pandemic forced us to think about alternatives in terms of collection presentations. Indeed I have always wanted to use alternative formats to communicate my creative process to an even wider audience. So for SS21, I presented the Ermenegildo Zegna XXX collection with a digital tool. It gave me great energy and freedom of thought because I could finally enter directly into people’s lives, strengthening a dialogue with a wider audience globally.
What can you tell us about the Fall/Winter 2020 campaign and the social and environmental responsibility that comes with it?
At Zegna, social and environmental responsibility is in our roots, and today, after 110 years, we are reaffirming our commitment to the natural world, reinforcing our founder’s legacy which is linked to a clear approach to sustainability. Ermenegildo Zegna ignited our lifelong protection of the environment when he began planting more than 500,000 trees in the 1930s. Driven by a deep sense of giving back, his reforestation project transformed the landscape surrounding the Ermenegildo Zegna wool mill into a 100km squared nature reserve that is today known as OASI Zegna. This season, carrying our founder’s commitment to the planet forward, we ask our community to join us. With the Fall 2020 campaign we invited people to be part of Zegna Forest and become active supporters of OASI Zegna. As a token of our shared promise to the environment, everyone can buy an engraved wooden heart as a sign of our contribution to the ecosystem and symbol of our legacy and love for the land.
We know sustainability is a key value for you and for the company – what new developments have been made in this area over the past year?
For Zegna sustainability is a mindset. The belief that a quality product can only come from within a working context of inclusion, integrity, well‐being and care for the environment was valid in the past as it is today. Nowadays, the Ermenegildo Zegna Group is highly committed to spreading not only the passion for artisanal work but also values of fair and ethical business development. And of course, the Group is family‐led; this ensures that the founder’s values are kept alive. Still, the Group continues to pursue these strategic objectives through initiatives and projects aimed at engaging the community by investing in the territory. Moreover, the Group is involved in the organisation and promotion of several initiatives that support the territory’s cultural heritage through relationships with associations and organizations at a local, national and international level. Fondazione Zegna and Oasi Zegna are two concrete examples of the commitment to giving continuity to the values, philosophy and work of the company’s founder and last year, Zegna was among the first group of companies to sign The Fashion Pact.
How has the #Use The Existing vision progressed this year?
The vision behind the #UseTheExisting project is to make the dream to have zero waste possible. #UseTheExisting is not a project, it is a state of mind. The main goal is to reduce the system ecological footprint. At Zegna, we are trying to reuse resources in order to not waste any materials in the production chain. It is a mission and a vision in which we are investing a lot. This is the principle behind the latest and future collections. #UseTheExisting has been presented through all of our collections. These garments are found in both modern tailoring and luxury leisurewear from Ermenegildo Zegna, while the Ermenegildo Zegna XXX collection, remains the incubator where we innovate upcycled garments in new silhouettes.
What can you tell us about the Fear of God collaboration that launched earlier this year and why was it important to you to do this project?
Fear of God exclusively for Ermenegildo Zegna originated from the desire to collaborate on a common project between myself and Jerry Lorenzo, founder of Fear of God. With the objective of identifying and following a new path of masculine elegance that is also wearable for women, our conversation aimed to define a new lexicon for a contemporary wardrobe. A sort of new vocabulary that proposes aesthetic canons that are as free from pre-built models and gender paradigms as possible. In this collection, the excellence of Zegna sartorial take and the sophisticated leisurewear of Fear of God blend naturally, mixing and merging, to reinvent silhouettes and proportions.
Can you share with us any new methods or materials you have been working with on the recent collections?
First of all my vision and approach is to reconceptualise the tailoring that has been Zegna’s main take for decades. This has been my aim since I returned to be part of the Group as its Artistic Director four years ago. This coming SS21 season, for example, I further honed my hybridisation of the sartorial and the casual and I came back with a different perspective: lighter fabrics, fresher colours, a more joyful approach. The most enthralling element of the collection is the fusion of past and future that has subtly defined my work for a long time. The lifestyle I am envisioning at Zegna is not only about a clothing silhouette, it is about a persona, someone that has his own life, feelings and emotions.
What is something you would still like to achieve that you haven’t done yet?
I want to create an updated, recognisable dress attitude for multiple generations. It’s more about life through the style, rather than the age.
Last year you opened up the conversation of “What Makes a Man” with the last campaign – how has this conversation played out and has it been what you were expecting?
With the What Makes a Man campaign, we wanted to express values that are core to the brand. We didn’t want to redefine the meaning of modern masculinity, but to open a discussion on the concept itself as it is about different meanings and includes many features.
What is something you would still like to see change in the industry?
Working in unison to feed the ground for a better future.
What is a lesson or motto that you will carry with you from 2020?
Our actions today will shape our tomorrow.