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Zegna Chief Talks Brand Initiatives

The Ermenegildo Zegna Group will mark 2013 with a major event in Sydney in April to celebrate the 50th edition of the brand’s Wool Awards.

MILAN — The Ermenegildo Zegna Group will mark 2013 with a major event in Sydney in April to celebrate the 50th edition of the brand’s Wool Awards, and with continued investments to strengthen its retail network.

After the men’s show here Saturday, chief executive officer Ermenegildo Zegna discussed these plans on the back of a year that showed uninterrupted growth at the Italian men’s wear giant, which closed 2012 with an 11 percent increase in revenues, reaching 1.25 billion euros, or $1.6 billion at average exchange rates.

“Australia is a point of reference for us in our history, the country that provides the best wool and one we’ve worked with for the past 60 years,” said Zegna in his spacious and light-filled office here. “Whatever the trends, we’ve always employed wool,” said the executive, whose family has long worked with breeders in Australia and encouraged them to provide the best fibers.

 

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Zegna initiated the Ermenegildo Zegna Extrafine Wool Trophy in 1963 to award and reward Australian wool growers’ commitment to quality and stimulate production of the finest merino wool in Australia. The anniversary celebration in Sydney this year will include an exhibition, a fashion show with a dedicated collection, and a party, expected to draw a number of celebrities. “We’ve never done something like this there,” said the executive.

Zegna said the company is especially attentive to the growing Australian market today. “The Chinese go to Australia for their holidays, they send their children to school there. It’s the same as Singapore for the Indonesians,” said the executive. Therefore, the company is investing in its own stores in the region. “We are pushing retail, moving away from wholesale,” he said. There are two stores in the country and Zegna plans to reach a total of six in two or three years.

The Trivero, Italy–based company is investing in its own boutiques all over the world, as it opened 30 units last year and has plans to open 30 more this year. “We focused on Asia a lot in the past, but now we are looking at Europe and the U.S. more,” said Zegna.

The firm will open a unit in Dallas in 2013, relocate its Beverly Hills door with a Peter Marino concept, open a Z Zegna store in Beverly Center, expand in Chicago, and open an Agnona boutique in Miami. In Italy, it will unveil a store in Milan’s 19th-century Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, which is being upscaled and will also house a new, expansive Prada store.

Describing the last four months of 2012 as “good,” where China compensated for a slowdown in the U.S., caused by the instability associated with the fiscal cliff, Zegna expressed confidence about 2013, forecasting single-digit growth. “It will be a year of surprises, so we must always be ready to react. You never know where the surprise may pop up; there is a lot of uncertainty, and no currency advantages,” he said.

While not providing details about the collaboration with Stefano Pilati — he started Jan. 1 as creative director of the group’s Agnona women’s line and head of design at Ermenegildo Zegna, with responsibility for that brand’s fashion show as well as for the Ermenegildo Zegna Couture collection — Zegna praised the designer’s “belief” in the archives and textile innovation. An Agnona store will open in London this year and there will be a relocation in Milan. “We are also looking at Madison Avenue, and China will follow,” Zegna said.

The ceo said he was also very pleased with the launch of the new Uomo fragrance under a license with Estée Lauder. “I expected it to be successful, but not so quickly. Yes, it may be the power of the brand, but it’s the product that counts,” he said. “It’s all about new projects, how to communicate them, how to execute them properly and meet expectations and how to support the brand.”