Inspired by its visionary founder, Zegna follows its own path down the road that Ermenegildo Zegna built over a hundred years ago in the mountains in Piedmont, Northern Italy. Established as a fabric maker, Zegna is recognized as a leading global luxury menswear brand.
“Our road from sheep to shop, has always been woven with enduring style, with over 110 years of innovation, we remain rooted in tomorrow.” This pretty much describes luxury menswear fashion brand Zegna’s ethos which remains rooted in its heritage while adapting current trends to remain relevant today.
The brand history is quite fascinating. In 1889, watchmaker Angelo Zegna diversified into the wool trade with just four looms. one of his sons Ermenegildo took over the reins of the business and Zegna was founded in 1910 in Trivero, Italy. There was no looking back. From these humble beginnings, the eighteen year old boy began using the looms to create quality fabrics that he would often describe as ‘the most beautiful in the world.’ In 1915, the company was renamed Fratelli Zegna di Angelo.
Zegna’s vision was to create high-quality fabrics, so he began to source wool directly from several countries around the world, such as Mongolia, Australia, and South Africa; he also bought modern machinery from England. It was a win:win strategy. In the late Twenties, the Lanificio wool mill employed more than 700 workers, growing to more than 1,000 in the late Thirties. In 1938, the company began to export fabrics in the US through its subsidiary Zegna Woollens Corporation established in New York City. In 1942, Ermenegildo’s sons Aldo and Angelo joined the company, which was then renamed Ermenegildo Zegna and Sons. The boys took over the reins of the company in the mid-Sixties and under their guidance, the label expanded its business to ready-made suits and also established new plants and distribution networks overseas. In 1968, the first factory producing sleeve-units and trousers was opened in Novara, followed by openings in Spain, Greece, and Switzerland. Sales and marketing departments were also established in France, Germany, the U.K., and the U.S. In 1972, Zegna launched its made-to-measure service, Su Misura.
“The DNA is, surely, high-quality products with strong ingredients of innovation in what it represents in terms of performance, in terms of style, and a capacity to put the pieces together. You can tell a Zegna wardrobe by the look, and that is what Italian style is about. And we go from sheep to shop and shop to screen, in which we control the entire process from industry to product to store management and to the online future that we’ve brought around the world,” Ermenegildo Zegna told Forbes India.
Zegna’s attention to wool quality continued through the decades, as the company established the Wool Awards in Australia in 1963 and the Mohair Trophy in South Africa in 1970. The international development strategy run by the brothers brought to the openings of the first owned boutique in Paris in 1980, followed by Milan in 1985. In 1991, Zegna became the first luxury label to open a store in China. During the Nineties, Angelo’s son, and namesake of the company’s founder, Ermenegildo “Gildo” Zegna, became CEO of the Group in 1997; his cousin Paolo was appointed Chairman. Under them, the company began a strategy of brand extension and verticalization. In 1991, Zegna was the first luxury brand to enter the China market, with a flagship in Beijing; and one of the first to access the Indian market. In 2008, the Group established its new headquarters in Milan.
Zegna has always stayed ahead of the curve, to remain relevant. Per BoF, “Zegna has sought to create a sportier and more immersive menswear universe, adding new categories like sneakers and loungewear. Creative director Alessandro Sartori has continued to experiment with creating comfortable but elevated ‘uniforms’— featuring cozy overshirts and knit jackets — that have been gradually replacing two-piece suits in a stylistic shift that has accelerated since the pandemic. Zegna’s casualisation push may have come late compared to most luxury players, but it’s been advancing at a clip: luxury leisurewear represented 50 percent of sales last year…”
Moreover, a large number of acquisitions and partnerships have been signed since the late Nineties till date. In the late 1990s, Zegna started looking beyond its traditional area of textiles, ready-towear and made-to-measure suits. In 2002, it took over the luxury leather maker Longhi, and set up a joint venture with Salvatore Ferragamo to make shoes and other leather goods. Its accessories portfolio has since expanded to include fragrances, eyewear, underwear, sneakers, watches (in collaboration with Girard-Perregaux) and pens (in partnership with Omas). In 2003, it launched the trendier Z Zegna line, targeted at a younger generation of customers. Two years ago, it partnered with Maserati to produce 100 custom made Quattroporte sedans, with the interiors reflecting the brand’s signature designs and motifs.
In 2014, Zegna acquired the majority of Achill, an Australian wool farm counting about 12,500 sheep in its flock. In 2016, the Group acquired a majority stake in Bonotto, a high-end textile manufacturer based in Molvena, Vicenza, Italy. Two years later, Zegna – through its subsidiary ZECA company – took Cappellificio Cervo hat-maker. In 2018, Ermenegildo Zegna Group acquired a stake into Indian fashion designer Raghavendra Rathore’s firm. In the same year, Zegna purchased 85 per cent of Thom Browne. In 2019, Zegna bought a 65 per cent stake of Italian quality jersey fabrics manufacturer Dondi, increasing its control over the textile supply chain. In June 2021, the Zegna Group bought a 60 per cent majority stake in Tessitura Ubertino, a high-end fabric maker based in Piedmont, Italy. A few weeks later, Zegna also bought a 40 per cent share in Tessitura Biagioli Modesto, an Italian spinning mill specialised in cashmere production.
In 2021, Zegna went public by combining with a US special-purpose acquisition company launched by European private equity group Investindustrial. On December 20, 2021, the Zegna Group went public in New York with an estimated valuation of $3.1 billion. It is the first Italian fashion company to be listed in New York. The luxury fashion brand remains steadfast to its growth trajectory. Per Vanity Fair, “Ermenegildo’s legacy as one of Italy’s visionaries is being honored by his family with the reproduction of the first fabric he designed, Tessuto Numero Uno, or ‘Fabric No. 1,’ painstakingly re-created from the founder’s own records.”
“Our road from sheep to shop, has always been woven with enduring style, with over 110 years of innovation, we remain rooted in tomorrow.”
Born in Oasi, Zegna, leading luxury menswear globally since 1910.
Ermenegildo Zegna’s grandchildren hold the reins of the company. Gildo Zegna and Paolo Zegna, are C.E.O. and Chairman, respectively. Anna Zegna is Image Director.
Menswear and accessories
During the Thirties, founder Ermenegildo Zegna planted thousands of trees. In 1993, Ermenegildo Zegna Group created the Oasi Zegna, a protected natural area of 100 km2 in the mountains surrounding Trivero. In 2014, the Oasi was granted the patronage of FAI Fondo Ambiente Italiano, the National Trust of Italy. Moreover, The Zegna Group is one of the signatories of the Fashion Pact, a plan signed by thirty-two fashion brands to reduce their environmental impact. The Pact was presented at the 45th G7 summit in Biarritz on August 26, 2019.
“At the Zegna Group, we have taken care of the world we live in from the beginning, following in the footsteps of our founder. Our company mission is based on a constantly-evolving thought: looking at the future with the belief that our actions today will shape our tomorrow. Social and environmental responsibility have been the roots of our Group for over 110 years. The environment is at the core of our efforts: we believe the very best garments can only come from the best natural resources, and that these resources need to be cared for.” Gildo Zegna
In 2019, the Zegna Group launched #UseTheExisting, a project that gives new life to used fabrics and creates new ones from surplus fibers and offcuts, in order to completely reduce waste. The project was awarded the Italian ADI Design Index 2020 Innovation Award.