MILAN— Stefano Pilati is exiting Agnona, but will continue to be head of design at Ermenegildo Zegna.
Agnona’s spring 2016 collection to be presented in September will be finished by the brand’s design studio, but it is understood the group plans to continue investing in building the label and that a designer may be expected to succeed Pilati to direct the team, starting with the fall 2016 season.
Agnona was founded in 1953 and has been controlled by the Ermenegildo Zegna Group since 1999.
“The brand plans to continue to pursue its ambition to become a true global brand, founded on the quality of Italian textiles as well as on a strong, elegant and contemporary style to be shown in Milan’s Fashion Week in 2016. We will reorganize the design department accordingly,” said a group spokesman.
Pilati is said to be pursuing other personal projects in women’s ready-to-wear.
A retailer who spoke on condition of anonymity said the store “had evaluated buying Agnona and the collection was beautiful, of great quality, but very expensive and looked more like a capsule, as if it weren’t complete yet.” The retailer added that “perhaps this is not the range Pilati would like to explore. Agnona remains a classic brand and he can better channel his innovative spirit in Zegna.”
A Milan-based luxury analyst said Pilati was a better fit with Zegna’s men’s collections because “there was a need to add fashion and trend elements” there and the designer succeeded in responding to these requirements. “Agnona’s new direction didn’t really take shape.”
To be sure, Pilati’s designs for the group’s men’s collections have increasingly been hits with retailers and the media. Speaking ahead of Milan Men’s Fashion Week, both chief executive officer Gildo Zegna and Pilati were upbeat about prospects for Zegna.
Armando Mammina, a Milan-based marketing and strategic consultant, said the development of Agnona requires heavy investments that are more easily achieved by a group with a stable of brands to leverage synergies, and “big critical mass,” such as Kering or LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, for example. “Labels with a great tradition and a niche brand awareness such as Agnona can be very interesting to develop, but you need huge investments in communication, media planning, endorsement and retail over a very long period of time, at least five or six years,” he said.
Pilati joined the Trivero, Italy-based Zegna in January 2013, after exiting Yves Saint Laurent as creative director in March 2012. He was named creative director of Agnona, and head of design at Ermenegildo Zegna, with responsibility for that brand’s fashion show as well as for the Ermenegildo Zegna Couture collection, the latter built on sartorial, hand-stitched suits in precious fabrics. The designer, a well-known and seasoned talent, with a suave personal style and experience at big brands, has worked in senior design and fabric development positions for a number of Italian design houses, including Miu Miu, Prada and Giorgio Armani.
Pilati’s first collection for Agnona was presented in September 2013 and the designer turned the brand into a seasonless line that was available for purchase on the spot. The first collection, named #0, was presented in Agnona’s boutique in Milan. He also expanded the brand’s product categories to, for example, include handbags.
At the time Pilati joined Agnona, the brand had sales of 30 million euros, or $33.1 million at current exchange, and the Zegna ceo said it was “a must, especially for a women’s brand,” to sign on “an important designer.”
Pilati at the time said he characterized Agnona as a “meeting ground between fashion and innovation in design.”
“My creative mission will be as much about pure creation and an holistic approach to women’s wear: connecting the high end and the high tech, as a challenge to elevate the tactile, sensorial dimension of fashion,” he added.
As reported, investments in the relaunch of Agnona and its production structure contributed to dent the group’s profitability in 2014. Last year, the privately owned Italian clothing and textile firm saw net profit drop 39 percent to 71 million euros, or $94.4 million, on sales that totaled 1.21 billion euros, or $1.6 billion, down 4.7 percent from the previous years. A contraction in China and Russia and a strong euro also weighed on the bottom line. Last month, Zegna said the company was reviewing its medium and long-term strategy and investing in mature and new markets, strengthening its position in the U.S., Japan, Korea and Australia, for example, and evaluating new opportunities, in areas such as Africa.