Zegna Gives Fashion an Anatomy Lesson

In terms of industrial scale, Ermanno Scervino is a mom-and-pop shop relative to the might of Ermenegildo Zegna, among the largest textile companies in Italy and certainly the only one with the capacity to sell its own hydroelectric power to the Italian state.

Yet embedded with the culture of each company is a stubborn pride of creation, an ethos inadequately characterized by the inevitable reference to what Gildo Zegna, Zegna’s chief executive, called “our DNA.”

The corp-speak version of biological determinism has, let’s face it, gotten a little stale. Yet there is a case to be made for its cultural counterpart. Mr. Sartori, 52, was born in the same place as Mr. Zegna himself and all but grew up at the label. He began as a textile designer before taking over the role of artistic director at Z Zegna in 2003 and where he now — following a five-year detour to help put the luxury goods label Berluti back on the map for LVMH — serves as artistic director.

In preparing for his show on Friday, Mr. Sartori drew on the work of the Swiss landscape artist Thomas Flechtner, though mostly for the Alpine set of artificial snow mounded around scattered white platforms and for natural patterns that drew on those Mr. Flechtner documents in his work: ski chevrons cut through fresh powder, bird tracks in the snow. And he made specific reference to the Oasi Zegna, a large nature reserve Mr. Zegna’s grandfather set up in the 1930s in the mountainous region of their factories.

Environmentalism is nothing new for the company, Mr. Zegna said before the show. “For every child born at Zegna, we plant a white pine tree,” he said. And as long as a decade ago, the company had already introduced processes for producing chemical-free cloth dyed with things like tea, tobacco, mushrooms and crocus and made permanent without use of caustic fixatives.

Photo

Backstage at the Zegna show, with looks from the fall collection.

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