One hundred and ten years. In that time, two world wars were fought, multiple men landed on the moon, and the Berlin Wall was erected and torn down. Italian luxury menswear brand Ermenegildo Zegna has survived all of that. And while the world is in the midst of yet another crisis that will live on in history books in time to come, the fashion maison soldiers on.
The pandemic might have muted its 110th-anniversary celebrations, but human ingenuity always trumps a calamity. Artistic director Alessandro Sartori put together something he called a phygital – a portmanteau of physical and digital – show to present his forward-looking spring/summer 2021 collection.
And what better place to showcase it than at the heart of Oasi Zegna, a nature reserve created by the Zegna family in 1993, long before sustainability and environmentalism became buzzwords. It was also the perfect location to demonstrate Zegna’s continued commitment to the planet. Sartori had previously mentioned in an interview with a fashion magazine that the typical wastage rate at Zegna’s five weaving companies was 50 per cent. It wasn’t ideal and the Italian had been working to reduce that number.
He’s on the right track. Thirty-five per cent of the spring/summer 2021 collection is made from recycled fabrics and Sartori is confident of reaching a 50 per cent recycled rate in the near future. The collection itself is a brilliant study in marrying disparate elements – lightness, heritage and sustainability – into a cohesive narrative.
Suiting remains Ermenegildo Zegna’s strong, well, suit. In soft colours inspired by the green and brown hues of Oasi Zegna, the suits continue the amalgamation of casual and formal codes, with unstructured shoulder construction and oversized lapels, and styled in a variety of options – with shorts, on top of deconstructed turtlenecks, a zipped T-shirt, etc.
Sartori also brings back the brilliant 1.5-breasted construction. Think of it as a single-button double breasted blazer that’s more forgiving on those who’ve indulged a bit too much during dinner; double-breasted pieces are known to be harsh on those with less than stellar body shapes.
As for the jackets, they looked like a cross between a polo T-shirt and a safari jacket, with large flap pockets and seamed panels at the front. However, much like the pockets on your suits, we don’t recommend that you actually use them to store your items.
The models took us through a three-kilometre journey from the brand’s headquarters at Trivero, located within Oasi Zegna, towards the forested reserve before entering the mills and ending at the rooftop. A drone took over the finale of the show, flying upwards as the models, the backstage staff and Sartori stood on the roof. And as the final shot revealed the enormous extent of the Zegna facility and the surrounding Oasi Zegna, you can sense the weight of history that’s embedded in the brand’s story. All 110 years of it.
The story of Oasi Zegna
Opened to the public all year round, the 10,000-hectare nature reserve in the Biella Alps, Piedmont, Italy hosts a variety of activities ranging from horse riding to skiing as well as educational, cultural and entertainment events, depending on the season. Over half a million trees have been planted within the area in the past three decades by the late Ermenegildo and his team.
Due to climate change and the arrival of new plant diseases, however, the brand is embarking on an ambitious project called Zegna Forest to safeguard the health of the flora and prevent environmental disaster. The first phase began in February 2020 when a team cut down trees in a 16-hectare area and planted new ones.