By  on February 27, 2006

MILAN - After months of speculation, Tom Ford is expected to announce this week, possibly as early as today, that he has signed a manufacturing deal for his signature men's collection with Ermenegildo Zegna, according to sources in Europe.

Reached on Sunday, spokeswomen for both Ford and Zegna declined comment.

Since Ford announced last fall that he would return to ready-to-wear with a luxury men's collection, industry insiders have pointed to the Italian men's wear powerhouse as the logical partner.

Ford's business partner, Domenico De Sole, sits on Zegna's board and Ford is familiar with Zegna's production capability. The tailored clothing giant produced the Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent men's collections during Ford's tenure as creative director at those houses and still produces them today.

Yet apart from the personal connections, sources say, Zegna, which reported sales of 713 million euros, $886.4 million at current exchange, in 2005, is one of the only manufacturing companies with the right resources to produce and support Ford's eponymous collection.

Zegna has a vast network of factories in Italy and Switzerland that are designed to produce different kinds of garments, from designer suits with higher numbers of distribution to more selective bespoke pieces - a salient must for Ford.

In an interview with DNR in October, Ford said that his collection, which could bow for fall 2006, would be "a little less fashion than [his] Gucci man. There will be higher quality and a higher price point," Ford said.

"There will be better factories and more attention to detail than we were able to do in our mass luxury box at Gucci."

Since forming his own company last year, Ford has entered into beauty and eyewear deals with the Estée Lauder Cos. and Marcolin, respectively.

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