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SHANGHAI — Ermenegildo Zegna’s centennial celebrations, which began this spring in Italy, made their way here this month.
“China deserved such an event and such an investment from our side,” Paolo Zegna, the company’s chairman, said during a cocktail party to fete the brand’s recently opened flagship here. “We have given a lot to China in terms of training staff, establishing a different standard in retailing, in the image of men’s wear and with fashion in general.”
Executives said the festivities, which also featured a fashion show of the fall collection, underscores Zegna’s commitment to the growing class of wealthy Chinese shoppers. Since the family-run company opened its first store in Beijing in 1991, its distribution has grown to around 70 retail spaces in Greater China.
Greater China, which includes Hong Kong and Macau, represents 20 percent of the label’s global sales. Zegna’s revenue totaled 797 million euros, or $1.11 billion, last year.
Chief executive officer Gildo Zegna said he expects the region’s sales to grow about 30 percent this year.
The ceo said the company wants to target “young money” in China’s second-, third- and fourth-tier cities through the Zegna Sport and Z Zegna brands and cater to established wealthy clients with luxury and made-to-measure products.
“You have both worlds. It is not that you can only go one way and can’t go the other way,” he said. “It has to be carefully analyzed and executed,” Gildo said.
Paolo Zegna said company executives, who had been making frequent trips to Inner Mongolia to source cashmere, eyed China as a potential market for years before entering the country nearly two decades ago.
“We have always taken China very seriously,” he said. “In the beginning, there were people and competing companies laughing at us, but we saw there was something coming up.” He went on to state that eight of the 11 children of the current generation controlling the company are working in China.
Three more Zegna concept stores will open later this year in Chengdu, Shenzhen and Hangzhou, in addition to 10 stores featuring the Zegna Sport brand, which comprises 50 percent of the company’s sales within China. Meanwhile, the company is gearing up to throw another party next year to celebrate its 20th anniversary in China.
Anna Zegna, image director for the group, said Chinese consumers appreciate the brand’s craftsmanship and history.
“What I love about this country is they don’t like appearance only,” she said. “They go deep in what they buy, and they have a very strong respect for families. It is embedded in their culture. What they love about Zegna is we are a brand with authenticity.”
The new 7,815-square-foot store is located on the chic and fashionable Huaihai Road, near a host of other luxury brands including Tiffany and Co., Louis Vuitton and Cartier. It opened in May.
Designed by architect Peter Marino, the unit is the Italian label’s first concept store in China and its largest in Asia. Design elements include wood walls and marble flooring. A central staircase featuring a structure of crisscrossed stainless steel rods leads up to the VIP personal shopping room — the largest so far in all of Zegna’s global concept stores — with golden stucco and silk carpets.
A mixture of wealthy businesspeople flown in from Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan, as well as rich Chinese, flocked to the store’s opening cocktail. VIPs including Hong Kong-based actor and singer Leon Lai, Chinese actor Deng Chao and Chinese designer Han Feng watched as the models made their way down a gray stone runway.
Guests then were moved next door to an indoor pavilion for an after party featuring a performance by Chinese folk singer Sa Dingding. Accompanied by dancers performing a traditional Chinese fan dance, the musician sang compositions in varying dialects, including Mandarin, Tibetan and Sanskrit.