Italian design firm and retailer
Founded: in 1910 by Ermenegildo Zegna (1892-1966) in Trivero, Biellese Alps, Italy. Company History: Business turned over to sons, Aldo and Angelo, who expanded into ready-to-wear clothing, menswear line, 1960s; opened branches in Spain, France, Germany, Austria, U.S., Japan, and United Kingdom; group-controlled production units opened in Spain and Switzerland, 1968; specializes in men's ready-to-wear; first U.S. boutique, 1989; fragrance, Zegna; opened Beijing flagship, 1991; E.Z. line, designed by Kim Herring, launched 1993; Oasi Zegna, land recovery program, Trivero, 1993; opened first outlet store, New York, 1997; opened first store in India, 1999; acquired Angora womenswear, launched Zegna Sport, and began online selling, 1999; formed partnership with Armani, 2000. Exhibitions: Made in Italy, Pier 84, New York, 1988; Wool Bicentennial, Barcelona, 1990; The Meandering Pattern in Brocades and Silk, Milan, 1990-91; and at the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, 1992. Collections: The Power House Museum, Sydney; Museo della Scienza e della Tecnica, Milan. Awards: Cavaliere del Lavoro (to Ermenegildo Zegna), 1930. Company Address: 5 Via Forcella, 20144 Milan, Italy. Company Website: www.zegnaermenegildo.com .
On ERMENEGILDO ZEGNA GROUP:
Storie e favole di moda, Italy, 1982.
Giacomoni, Silvia, The Italian Look Reflected, Italy, 1984.
Canali, Renato, La Panoramica Zegna, Italy, 1985.
Enciclopedia della moda, Milan, 1989.
Villarosa, R., and Angeli, G., Homo elegans, Milan, 1990.
The Meandering Pattern in Brocaded Silks, 1745-1775, [exhibition catalogue], Milan, 1990.
Chaille, F., La grande histoire de la cravatte, France, 1994.
Martin, Richard, and Harold Koda, Two by Two: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1996.
"Fuori la stoffa, ragazzi," in Panorama (Milan), 24 May 1992.
"Der Kaschmir-Clan," in Stern (Germany), September 1992.
"Zegna alla Conquista della Cina," in La Stampa (Turin), 7 July 1993.
"La seconda conquista dell'America," in L'indipendente, 26 November 1993.
Siow, Doreen, "High Price Can be a Strong Suit," in the Sunday Times (London), 13 December 1993.
"Ecology: The Best Strategy," in Newsweek, 31 January 1994.
"La ricerca Zegna sui materiali," in Il Sole 24 Ore (Italy), 15 March 1994.
Dubini, Laura, "La géneration verte," in Jardin des Modes (Paris),April 1994.
Gellers, Stan, "There's Hard Business Sense Behind the Soft Suit," in DNR, 25 April 1994.
Bow, Jospehine J., "China Acquires a Small Taste of Italy," in DNR, 16 May 1994.
"Zegna quota 500 miliardi nel 1994," in Il Sole 24 Ore (Italy), 17 May 1994.
Levine, Joshua, "Armani's Counterpart," in Forbes, 4 July 1994.
Gellars, Stan, "Zegna Built its $85M U.S. Business by Using Americana Marketing," in DNR, 20 December 1995.
Palmieri, Jean E., "Zegna Sets Florida, Hawaii Stores," in DNR, 3June 1996.
Gellars, Stan, "Zegna Finds a New Outlet for Its Fashion," in DNR, 14April 1997.
Kline, Maureen, "Chic Executives Go for Zegna," in the Wall Street Journal, 27 August 1998.
Betts, Paul, "A Range of Ties for All Occasions," in the Financial Times, 23 September 1998.
Conti, Samantha, "Zegna to Buy Lanerie Agnona," in WWD, 14January 1999.
Sman, Katherine, "Zegna Licensed to Make Ungaro Signature Collection," in DNR, 15 January 1999.
Zargani, Luisa, "Armani and Zegna Form Joint Venture," in WWD, 25 July 2000.
Daswani, Kavita, "Indian Men Beginning to Embrace High Fashion…Zegna Stores Appeal to Newly Fashion-Conscious Customer," in DNR, 21 February 2001.
"Zegna Vision Lives On," in the New Straits Times, 2 April 2001.
Ermenegildo Zegna was founded in 1910 as a company which created and produced woolen fabrics. Our philosophy has always been based on quality and the search for excellence.
What makes Zegna unique is that it is the only company of its type in the world specialized in the direct purchase of natural raw materials on their markets of origin, with a totally verticalized creative and production cycle going from raw materials to cloths, clothing and accessories, which are internationally distributed through Zegna's salespoints and other selected menswear shops.
Finally, Zegna is also characterized by its sensitivity and respect for the environment. As early as 1930, Ermenegildo Zegna established and financed a vast project for the reclamation of the mountain overlooking Trivero, the village in the Alpine foothills of Biella where Zegna's headquarters are located. Following in the footsteps of the company's founder, the younger generations of the family have created "Oasi Zegna,"a project designed to protect nature over an area of about 100 square kilometres.
—Ermenegildo Zegna Group
"Our typical client believes in understated classic styles," says Gildo Zegna, grandson of the family firm's founder. "That's why they like Ermenegildo Zegna." Ermenegildo Zegna Group is not a brand of radical fashion statements; on the contrary, very classic tailoring, rich and supple fabrics, and obsessive attention to detail make Zegna the Rolls Royce of menswear, an image the firm is quick to reinforce.
The company's marketing and advertising copy describes wool spun into strands so fine one kilo stretches 150,000 metres, hand-sewn buttons, and the hand-pressing of each jacket before leaving the factory. The latter, it was said, took 45 minutes, but then suit prices are high. Zegna built a reputation on catering only to the richest of businessmen, well-established celebrities, and the world's royalty; only near the end of the 20th century did the firm expand into less exclusive apparel.
Zegna clothes are quintessentially English, from the suits of a world-class banker to the casualwear of a world-beating yachtsman or horsemaster. The fabrics are Italian, made for lightweight softness and presoaked in the waters of the Italian Alps, whose mineral-free quality has been sought after by Italian cloth merchants since the Middle Ages. The craftsmanship is Swiss—accurate, precise, always correct, while colors change year on year. Winter 1993 was brick, brown, tobacco, evergreen, billiard green, emerald; winter 1994 was eye-blue, cobalt, stone grey, tobacco, some red, more browns. Raw materials come from the world over—wool from Australia, cashmere from China, mohair from South Africa. Although most upmarket menswear producers use similar resources and methods, Zegna takes its selection a few steps further—for example, the firm's preferred cashmere is that of a Chinese goat, aged between three and five years. It then becomes understood the creators at Zegna are not just professionals but inspired visionaries of men's clothing.
Much of Zegna's strength lies in its manufacturing process. The company is vertically integrated, buying its own raw materials, making its own fabrics, designing its clothes, and running its own boutiques. The firm has always been forward-looking, yet steeped in tradition; it uses the most advanced databases to maintain and update customer measurements, purchases, and personal details, and uses CAD (computer-aided design) programs to adjust patterns. Wool fabrics, however, were still handwashed and suits still finished by hand.
Zegna is, however, successful in a highly competitive sector. The 1994 market for men's suits costing over $1,000 was considered one million units per year; Zegna sold 300,000 such suits during the year, capturing 30-percent of the market. To maintain and grow in this sector, their marketing has been subtle—like sponsoring a yacht race in Portofino, Italy, with no loud banners or posters, just models walking through the crowd wearing Zegna blazers with the small white EZ logo. Then there are the seat covers for Saab 9000 cars, where Saab salesmen were drilled in the virtues and qualities of Zegna fabrics so they would pass the information on to buyers. Zegna has also mailed sample swatches and possible combinations of jackets, ties, and shirts to their best customers.
In the middle and later 1990s, Zegna expanded into new markets with soft suits, the casual cut, and mix-and-match coordinates which were popular in the U.S., France, and Italy. Specifically for the U.S. market, Zegna designed sportswear to compete with Hugo Boss, Giorgio Armani, and Calvin Klein—shirts, slacks, and sports and outerwear jackets aimed at the 35-plus market. To complete a man's wardrobe, Zegna also makes natural cotton undergarments, high quality corporate gifts, and a signature fragrance.
Perhaps Zegna's most important strength is the tightknit family behind the company; the children of founder Ermenegildo Zegna as well as many of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren have roles within the firm. There was no indication such a reliance on home-grown talent led to stagnation, although outsiders also played major roles in the firm, especially in America. By 1996 there were five freestanding Zegna stores in the U.S., with the latest shops opening in Hawaii and Florida. Zegna also ventured into lower-priced goods with its first outlet store, in a large mall in Central Valley, New York, in 1997. Surrounded by such high-end designers as Christian Dior, Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren, Brooks Brothers, and Barneys, the firm was in exceedingly good company.
Ermenegildo Zegna menswear is internationally known for its high quality and exquisite fabrics. Rapidly approaching its centennial, the firm has kept abreast of the times, from launching a website and introducing sportswear, to forging alliances with other menswear leaders like Armani and Ungaro. The family-run empire has a growing global presence in Europe, as well as two dozen shops in China, and its second store opening in the virtually untapped mens-wear market in India.
updated by SydonieBenét