Appeared In
Special Issue
Men'sWeek issue 06/23/2011

PARIS — Why should e-boutiques offer a flat perspective on shopping?

This story first appeared in the June 23, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Virtually replicating in 3-D a two-story brick-and-mortar Ermenegildo Zegna store, with rooms to wander through and steps to mount, the Zegna in_STORE 3-D digital portal — which goes live tonight — is anything but.

Developed with Hollywood-based visual-effects specialist James Lima, who consulted on the 3-D blockbuster “Avatar,” the Zegna e-store offers visitors a real-life spatial, visual and experiential shopping experience using immersive 3-D technology. Computer graphics in three dimensions were used to make the store look photo-real, with the same furnishings as in the brick-and-mortar Ermenegildo Zegna stores.

The free Zegna in_STORE application will launch on iTunes and on Zegna’s Web site and Facebook page. It’s geared to iPads and iPhones, and other versions are due to be added in the coming months.

Visitors to the virtual store can shortcut to a product slide show using a bar on the bottom part of the portal’s display, or call up a map offering a 3-D bird’s-eye view of each floor to enter specific rooms. A third level will be added in September.

Model and actress Milla Jovovich greets visitors and leads them through the site’s functions.

This evening, she will join the brand’s chief executive officer, Gildo Zegna, to fete the app’s launch at the inauguration of the brand’s new Peter Marino-designed Global Store on Paris’ Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré.

All proceeds from sales rung up during the evening will go to the charity Artists for Peace & Justice, on whose advisory board Jovovich sits. Ten percent of online sales generated during the June 24 to Dec. 31 period will also go to the foundation.

“We thought it was a cute idea to launch [Zegna in_STORE] in Paris during men’s fashion week, linking two interesting projects. I hope it generates noise and, more importantly, sales. Only time will tell,” said Zegna, whose “conservative” long-term goal for the e-commerce site is to generate 5 percent of his company’s total retail sales. “We hope to go very far. How far? I have no idea. In how many years? I don’t know. Before running, we have to learn to walk. Otherwise you fall flat on your face,” he said.

In line with budgets, sales generated by the brand’s standard Yoox-operated e-commerce site, which launched about seven months ago and has now been replaced by Zegna in_STORE, were “modest,” Zegna said. More than 50 percent of Zegna’s online sales come from the U.S.

Zegna in_STORE, which will be promoted through advertising, digital marketing and word of mouth, will position the brand ahead of the pack, he believes. “We do believe traffic will increase in an important way. The challenge is how to balance product offer and increase traffic. I mean, why are we on Fifth Avenue or Faubourg Saint-Honoré? Because of traffic,” said Zegna.

Declining to disclose figures for his overall business, he cited “better-than-expected” results for the first quarter of 2011, with a 20 percent sales increase, year-over-year, though Zegna anticipates 2012 will be a quieter year. “[This] is a positive year, but I am cautiously optimistic. I will plan in a more conservative way than six months ago because [the market is still facing challenges]. I don’t see great optimism. America is not quite out yet,” he said. The brand more than tripled its net profits in 2010, its centennial year, and hit the $1 billion mark in sales.

As in a real store, all products on Zegna in_STORE are for sale. Shoppers can click on items and be taken to another page to see product on models, with a 360-degree perspective.

“Architecturally the store won’t change but the product and collections will. It’s a living and breathing store,” said Lima, who believes 3-D e-commerce will dramatically improve the shopping and brand experience for consumers. “Because human beings are three-dimensional and spatial and have stereoscopic vision, we ultimately want to experience things in 3-D. This is why ‘Avatar’ was done in 3-D. It was not to do 3-D as a gag but to immerse you deeper into the characters, into the story. Here the characters aren’t paramount; it’s the brand. The star is the clothes,” said Lima, who also directed the Ermenegildo Zegna “LIVE-D” fall 2011 fashion show. “Fashion by definition needs experience.”

On Zegna in_STORE, video monitors on the store’s walls will change regularly, showcasing fashion shows, special collections and new product.

The brand’s new 5,400-square-foot Paris shop, meanwhile, offers the full range of Zegna men’s offerings over five floors decked out in 54 different materials, ranging from zebrawood to leather and Serpentino marble.

The fabrics, created at Zegna’s eponymous woolen mill in Trivero, Italy, provided the key inspiration for the store design, from the metallic strands on its facade to the textured wallpapers inspired by a corduroy swatch.

“We’re so used to touching beautiful fabrics that even the woods need to have a sensorial feeling, in a way,” said Anna Zegna, the firm’s image director.

Geometric designs evoking the textile composition of warp crossing weft run throughout the store, from upholstery to display units, culminating in Frank Thiel’s oversize photograph of a historical loom, which is the focal point of the third floor, home to the couture collection.

Adjoining the clubby space, which showcases Zegna’s hand-finished suits, is the luxury room, an area devoted to personal shopping that features golden stucco walls and a wooden floor for an intimate and luxurious effect.

The second floor houses the sartorial collection alongside ties and shirts. The space features Milo Baughman chrome and cowhide club chairs, two of several vintage furniture pieces scattered throughout the store, which also boasts a set of Artona armchairs by Afra and Tobia Scarpa.

While the first floor is dedicated to shoes and the upper casual collection, the ground floor features casualwear alongside small leather goods, eyewear, a tie bar and other accessories, such as an iPad cover made of gray flannel.

The basement has the Z Zegna and Zegna sport brands and is the most modernist space in the store, with a gray marble floor, stainless steel hanging units, dégradé glass wall panels and a giant video screen showing runway images.

The store is the brand’s 11th Peter Marino concept store, with three more due to open in China this year. The brand counts more than 560 Zegna stores, 330 of which are company-owned, in 80 countries around the world.

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