“Now you understand Zegna,” chairman and chief executive officer Gildo Zegna said as he greeted guests at the brand’s spring show, presented on the rooftop of the company’s storied wool mill smack in the center of Oasi Zegna.
The event was carefully planned, starting with a cocktail, a walk-through of the factory that offered a peek at huge rolls of fabrics and thumping machinery, and a fashion show just as the sun set behind the mountains, and a puff of vicuña-colored smoke belched from the tall brick chimney. Flags, also in Zegna’s signature vicuña hue, flanked the sides of the runway, flapping in the cool breeze. This was a welcome respite for the guests who had driven 90 minutes from the sweltering Milan heat to reach the location, which has a special meaning for the Zegna family as its historic headquarters, as well as for artistic director Alessandro Sartori, who has long been inspired by this beautiful haven of peace, surrounded by rhododendrons, pine trees and stunning alpine views.
Sartori and Zegna go a long way back, as the designer first joined the company in 1989 to lead the Z Zegna brand, returning in 2016 to his current role, after five years at Berluti.
The designer has been perfecting a distinctive style for Zegna, accompanying the 112-year-old label into the future, through a rebranding and a public listing in New York.
He has sharpened his vision, homing in on what he believes is relevant for the Italian menswear brand: exceptional fabrics and continuing to build the relationship with customers also through increased customization. He continues to ponder the evolution of menswear. “What do men need today? And how can we evolve tailoring?” Sartori wondered in a preview walk-through with WWD.
For spring, he experimented with super light shapes and technical finishes, developing a new leisurewear silhouette. This new take on tailoring was worn by his front-row celebrity guests, including Isaac Hempstead Wright, Joseph Quinn, Kailand Morris and Leslie Odom Jr. — all in monochromatic pantsuits in dusty, soft colors including powder pink. There is a sense of uniform dressing blending traces of workwear and activewear in these suits, yet personalized and carefree.
On the runway, kimono-cut jackets, feather-light coats, shirts and tops that doubled as outerwear were also loose and unstructured, barely grazing the body. Tailored blazers were shown with a shirt collar instead of a lapel.
The designer allowed the models to form a tableau vivant at the end of the show, which was a smart move so that guests could see the clothes up close to better assess the weight and the details of the looks. For example, some tailored shirt jackets and pants were made of terry cloth; jacquard tops had a lacquered finish; leather and nylon were rubberized, and one suit was realized in recycled paper, indicative of the brand’s focus on sustainability, which has been investing in its “Oasi Cashmere” traceability project and increasing the use of wool and technical fabrics made from preexisting and post-consumer sources.
Sartori also offered Bermuda shorts — ubiquitous on the Milan runways this season — embodying the current quest for comfort and free movement.
The designer has honed his skill at subverting under and outer layers, as his shirts become jackets and jackets become shirts and this hybrid function adds modernity to wardrobe staples. The color palette was beautiful, ranging from powder white and buttercup to dusty rose, honey, vicuña and mocha, juxtaposed at times with charcoal, sulfur and black.
Chunky soled loafers and transparent wraparound glasses completed the looks and Sartori introduced a cool evolution of Zegna’s successful Triple Stitch sneaker in a new version designed with Daniel Bailey, founder of Conceptkicks, known as Mr. Bailey, with an intriguing cracked leather vamp.