Baruffa, Brooks Bros. Buy Into Scottish Mill

Massimiliano Zegna Baruffa is aiming for a slice of the cashmere market.

Brooks Bros. acquired a stake in a 230-year-old mill.

MILAN — Watch out for the other Zegna.

This story first appeared in the October 13, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Massimiliano Zegna Baruffa — a distant relation of men’s wear dynast Ermenegildo Zegna and former chief executive of Italian yarn manufacturer Zegna Baruffa Lane Borgosesia — is aiming for a slice of the cashmere market, after acquiring a controlling stake last week in a 230-year-old Scottish mill formerly owned by knitwear brand Ballantyne.

“I plan to be a major supplier of specialty high-end and handmade cashmere,” Zegna Baruffa said by telephone from the mill in Innerleithen, Scotland.

Brooks Brothers also acquired a stake in the mill to shore up its supply chain during a difficult time for the textile industry.

Under terms of the deal, Zegna Baruffa acquired a 55 percent stake, Brooks Bros. bought a 25 percent interest, and Ballantyne retained the remaining 20 percent. Financial terms were not disclosed.

The business will now operate under the name of J.J. & H.B. 1788 Cashmere Mills Ltd., taking the initials from the founding Ballantyne brothers, John and Henry Ballantyne. Zegna Baruffa, 36, will serve as chairman and ceo.

Zegna Baruffa said he would manage operations and look to revive historic Scottish lifestyle brand Braemar, which came with the mill.

“Our objective is to relaunch Braemar, focusing on sweaters and knitwear accessories, capitalizing on our skills,” Zegna Baruffa said, adding he planned to unveil a small collection of Braemar men’s wear at Pitti Uomo in January.

Zegna Baruffa also gained Scottish knitwear brand McGeorge as part of his acquisition, although that is unlikely to be revived in the short-term.

The executive, who acted as an industrial consultant for Brooks Bros. after an acrimonious split with family business Zegna Baruffa Lane Borgosesia SpA in 2006, said he was eager to get back in the textile game and deal with the end product for the first time.

Founded in 1788 by Alexander Brodie, over 20 percent of the mill’s production is by hand, with 40 specialized workers dedicated to making featherlight intarsia sweaters — Ballantyne’s signature.