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Zegna Reinvents Luxury Store Concept

Zegna’s first global store on Via Montenapoleone sets a new benchmark for the family-run brand as it establishes the standard to beat in men’s luxury retailing.

MILAN — Ermenegildo Zegna’s first global store, on Via Montenapoleone here, sets a new benchmark for the family-run brand as it establishes the standard to beat in men’s luxury retailing.

Designed by Peter Marino, the glinting, 12,000-square-foot space gives as much weight to aesthetics as it does to functionality: The store puts Zegna’s retailing and merchandising on par with its product.

“With this new concept and space we are finally able to tell customers who we are and communicate it in a direct way,” said Gildo Zegna, chief executive officer, in an interview following the flagship’s soft opening last week. “The store takes Zegna to an entirely new level.”

The executive may have been referring to image and profile, but sales too are expected to rise. Zegna noted that, compared with its former home in Via Verri, the Montenapoleone location already marked a threefold increase in foot traffic and doubled sales in the first five days of operations.

Zegna said the store, which is located on the Via Manzoni side of the fashionable street, was already attracting a bevy of new clients, both foreigners and locals. A crocodile carryall, priced at 13,000 euros, was one of the first items sold. Last Tuesday afternoon a Middle Eastern man was spotted snapping up a cream shearling coat, for 4,000 euros, along with two pairs of silk pajamas.

Although Zegna said it was premature to give a sales forecast, he called doubling revenues in this new location a realistic goal. “We need to do a lot in sales to pay for this huge investment,” Zegna said with his signature chuckle. “It’s too early to tell, but I think sales can go very high if we stay organized.”

Zegna declined to say how much the store cost but said the investment was twice that of any other store in the company’s network.

From its handsome gray and mossy-green polished-stone floors, offset with contrasting inlaid marble strips, to its well-appointed niches—which hold items like leather totes and 12 kinds of white dress shirts—the flagship solidifies Zegna’s transformation from a high-quality suit resource to a lifestyle brand.

Over the last five years Zegna has repositioned the company to better compete in the global luxury market by consistently introducing new categories of merchandise—from footwear to small leather goods, from eyewear to underwear to the fashion-forward Z Zegna line. But the company lacked the right format to fully take advantage of this diversity. Now, with four floors and more than 7,000 square feet of selling space, Zegna can show off the entire range of its offerings in a modern context. “The product is very present, but at the same time the atmosphere is of great luxury,” Anna Zegna, image and store director, said during an exclusive walk-through last week.

Anna said that before Marino put pencil to paper he spent two months getting to know the Zegna brand and the family behind it. Although the award-winning architect has created retail concepts for many fashion houses—including Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior and Fendi—he hadn’t worked on a men’s-only brand in almost two decades. Before getting started, he urged Zegna not to cut any corners. “I told the family you have to spend X amount of dollars per square foot if you want to be in the same leagues as the big boys of luxury,” Marino recalled.

Looking to Zegna’s past, Marino made both literal and figurative allusions to Zegna’s textile tradition. “The company is about wooly sheep and high-tech industry,” he said. “I loved the contradiction. Watching a weaving machine is hot—it’s off the charts. I wanted to transform these motions—the cross weaving of the weft and the warp—into iconic design images.”

The store is replete with tactile surfaces and graphic design elements. An inlaid band of polished yellow marble outlines the ground floor, mimicking the yellow selvedge on Zegna fabrics. Irregular steal tubes sit under a glass stairwell. Intersecting suspension wires rise behind the street-front windows. Even the handles on the main door are custom moldings of bolts of corduroy.

Throughout, the store is tasteful and masculine. It has an industrial aspect but never feels overpowering. Hipsters may sigh, but the luxury everyman will feel in his element. “The idea was to create a place that could mirror the value of the brand,” Anna said. “We envisioned the store as though it were really the residence of a gentleman, with different rooms that all serve different functions.”

For customers, the journey begins outside. Visual merchandiser John Field created two enormous metal busts, then ripped them apart like cans. Inside each of them is an exquisitely tailored jacket, shirt and tie ensemble.

The 19th-century facade stands out impressively on an already tony street. Inside, the ceiling rises 15 feet. Spliced in its textured gray stone walls are streamlined slats that hold bolts of Zegna fabric. Immediately to the left are leather goods; to the right is an expansive wall of dress shirts.

According to Gildo, the design is already spurring impulse buys. Moreover, with these products front and center, he believes his category directors will be challenged creatively and the result will be better design.

Beyond that entrance area lie a footwear salon, a fragrance bar, a knitwear wall and hundreds of ties, hung from bias-cut displays to add movement. As the mossy-green marble turns to gray quartzite, customers enter the Z Zegna area.

As they ascend the floating glass staircase, customers hit the mezzanine, the home of Zegna Sport and, for the first time, a selection of Zegna denim. Casual tailoring, outerwear and underwear occupy the second floor. The top level—outfitted with leather sofas, a marble fireplace and mélange silk rugs—is dedicated to formal wear, Zegna Couture and made-to-measure.

As the product categories change, so do textures and tones. The concept celebrates not only Zegna’s textile heritage but contemporary initiatives such as the Oasis Zegna, a Zegna-funded reserve in the Biella Alps. A sweeping hologram showing a swath of Oasis mountains rises from the ground floor to the mezzanine. As customers move past it, the mountains’ peaks change from snow-capped to springtime verdant. “It’s really almost like a small department store,” Anna noted. “No detail was left to chance.”

The family will fête the opening on Thursday with an in-store cocktail party followed by a private dinner.

Zegna’s New York and Tokyo flagships are next in line for the makeover. Other locations are not yet in the works, though Gildo said the concept can be easily replicated. “If you were to ask me if I would do it again, I would say yes,” Gildo said. “If the results are there, we’ll do it even more.”