Gildo Zegna

MILAN — In a strategic move, the Ermenegildo Zegna Group has taken a controlling stake in Bonotto SpA, a high-end textile manufacturer based in Molvena, near Vicenza.

This story first appeared in the October 3, 2016 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The Bonotto family will continue to own a 40 percent stake and will be in charge of management and creative direction.

“We share the same values and the same culture with the Bonotto family and the same attention to the territory, to social issues and art,” said Gildo Zegna, chief executive officer of the Trivero, Italy-based men’s wear group.

Zegna declined to disclose the investment, but emphasized that Bonotto is a healthy, solid company and that the agreement was strategic rather than financial. “This marks the union of two private businesses in the luxury segment and will help us expand our informal fashion component and give input into Agnona’s women’s wear,” Zegna explained, referring to the other brand controlled by his family’s group.

He praised Bonotto’s technical knowhow. “I am fully confident that this adds value to our industrial synergies and the complete pipeline, from sheep to shop, all the steps including finishings. The agreement affords growth opportunities, also in our informal made-to-measure, with innovation and integration.”

Founded by Luigi Bonotto in 1912 as a straw hat producer, the company is now led by Lorenzo and Giovanni, grandsons of the founder and members of the fourth generation, who have steered its international growth. The company relies on a complete cycle, with direct control of the different stages of production from weaving to finishing, and the production of various seasonal collections available globally.

Bonotto comprises three production units: a style center focused on research and development in Molvena; a warping and weaving plant by the headquarters in Molvena where blankets, sample and production pieces are manufactured, and a state-of-the-art dyeing and finishing plant in nearby Schio.

“We found in Gildo, his family and his managers, a family company just like ours, with the same DNA in managing the firm, and the same goals for it, the same passion for people and things, in sync with the territory and its employees. This is more than fundamental for us,” said creative director Giovanni Bonotto.

The company has sales of more than 30 million euros, or $33.6 million at current exchange, and Bonotto said it has no debt. Echoing Zegna, he said this is a deal where the two companies flank one another “to grow and develop” their businesses, with the goal to “improve technology.” Bonotto for fall recently unveiled one-of-a-kind, upscale scuba materials and air-pocketed cotton fabrics for ensembles destined for the runway.

“Zegna is the Ferrari of our sector, with machinery that is technologically advanced,”  said Bonotto. “We don’t have the the same product. Where Zegna ends, we begin. We complement each other, and this can help the performance of production. Just like Gildo said, if we make the new affluent customers fall in love with us, they will be our great customers.”

Bonotto underscored the objective for both companies is to develop their industrial manufacturing and for them both to mine “uncharted areas such as furnishing and experimental fabrics” to grow.

The Zegna group will also have a 33 percent stake in Bonottoeditions, which created special-edition textiles and design objects. Cristiano Seganfreddo will remain creative director of Bonottoeditions, which has a showroom in Milan.

Bonotto’s fabrics, chiefly worsted — manufactured in different qualities, weights and designs — are suitable for suits, dresses, jackets, skirts, trousers and coats. Bonotto has developed processes 
such as silk protein finishing, enzyme treatment and carbon-diamond brushing. There are also what Bonotto calls the “fabrics of the memory,” woven on early 20th century shuttle looms and washed in the traditional way in wooden tanks. This is limited production for top brands. Bonotto has devised the concept “Slow [manufacturing] Plant, which is a manifesto against industrial standardization and serial, low-cost production. In Bonotto, all machines are mechanical, not electronic or automatic.”

The total area of Bonotto’s plant in Italy covers about 270,000 square feet with 200 employees. The annual production is more than 3 million square meters.

The Zegnas and Bonottos also share a passion for the arts, and each has a foundation named after its family. Bonotto explained that 17,000 works of art from the contemporary Fluxus movement from the late 1900s, including pieces from Yoko Ono, are set up within the manufacturing plant. “We sort of feel like artists ourselves, we create small works of art,” he said.

“It’s a small but significant operation because it strengthens our strategy in textiles — otherwise luxury would not exist,” said Zegna.

The Zegna group completed its industrial reorganization last year, investing in strengthening control of its supply chain. Zegna has created a state-of-the-art manufacturing center in San Pietro Mosezzo, near Novara, for its clothing division. This is in addition to three centers for the production of casual garments, outerwear and leather apparel, and accessories in Parma, Italy. A center specializing in knitwear was set up in Verrone, near Biella, Italy. These work alongside the historical textile mill in Trivero.

In 2015, the company saw a 4 percent gain in revenues, which reached 1.26 billion euros, or $1.4 billion at average exchange.

Alessandro Sartori, who left Berluti earlier this year, will have responsibility across all Zegna brands and for all creative functions as artistic director, a new role. The collections were previously designed by Stefano Pilati. Sartori joined the group in June, and will unveil his first collection for fall 2017 with a runway show in January.