ICON: You often refer to the modern man when speaking about Zegna. What does this person look like to you and how do you personally envisage him?
ALESSANDRO SARTORI: I consider fashion trends like steps. And we are on one of those steps where we can see different opportunities – opportunities to experiment with new formats – a different world, a need for different things. The modern man to me is not only someone that is living in the modern world with a modern attitude but is one who isn’t anchored on elements of the past. It is a man that is respectful and reflects his own personality in the way that he dresses. But in doing this, he needs to leave his comfort zone…
This is the modern man I have in mind. This is a man who respects people, respects himself, lives without closed paradigms and a man who is open to changes
ICON: In light of the pandemic we’ve been forced to change and re-think old practices and styles. Do you believe suiting will ever resemble pre-pandemic suiting again?
SARTORI: It’s been a long time since I was wearing a classic shirt or a tie. And it is not only because we no longer have the need for a chic dinner or a ‘happening’ somewhere, but it’s more so that it is no longer necessary for the office. I don’t want to wear those garments and feel constrained to a situation which doesn’t belong to me any longer. Will those needs return? Probably, but in a different way. We will live in a world where for most of the time, we will have a more relaxed attitude. But of course, we will still need classic tailoring, classic eveningwear and formalwear. We will wear those pieces to celebrate moments, where the rest of the day will be more related to a relaxed outfit. I need products that I didn’t need before; jersey, knitwear, underpinning – different garments, and mostly, different styles. Starting from this point, the team and I have been brainstorming and envisioning new practises and styles for the future.
ICON: How has the design DNA of Zegna evolved through the rise and fall of sportswear and relaxed work-from-home attire
SARTORI: The DNA of Ermenegildo Zegna has to do with the tailoring element. Everything speaks to that, but each season, the shapes are new; the way we build…In Italiano we say ‘crasi’, in English we say ‘clash’. So even if the garment looks like sportswear (and the new collection pieces are just that), they are made in our atelier. It’s a very interesting place to meet. It’s like opening the door on a new landscape.
ICON: The fashion industry has been turned on its head and forced to present virtually. What do you want people to take from your work if only watching from home?
SARTORI: I enjoy showing a collection on the runway. It’s very emotional – normally we are doing everything to get those emotions. The right location, or maybe it was a specific path with the right lights. For viewers at home, the runway is just a film, shot with three cameras from the front and side of the clothes. And unless you’re a real fan of fashion, the ten minutes of a runway can be quite boring. So why should I repeat the same format when I don’t have the possibility of a live audience? I found it inappropriate to do a classic runway. For the viewers today, it has to be better…Instead, I offered a different tool that makes it more enjoyable for the people that are not able to come to the show. But to do so, I needed to add layers that I didn’t consider before. Different locations, another angle. I started from a blueprint, like a short film. As a team, we had to think about the right method and form to deliver beauty and context. Today a collection with a nice narrative is better than a classic presentation.
ICON: What has been the biggest challenge?
SARTORI: Adapting to a new format where you cannot meet people from [overseas]. I cannot meet the supplier from England or from the south of Italy because they cannot travel. I needed to adapting to meeting them via Zoom and receiving swatches or samples via DHL. There is also an interesting aspect which is trying to overcome the challenges to get the best result possible by working in a different way.
ICON: Zegna is proof of the potential brands have for a more sustainable future. How will your initiative #UseTheExisting evolve in years to come?
SARTORI: In 2016, Zegna launched an idea of calculating the ways that the fashion industry produces clothes. We were shocked. It’s quite difficult to recycle natural materials and especially natural animal materials. The industry wastes about 50 percent of new, natural and raw goods. We couldn’t work like this any longer. Today, we are able to recuperate 30 percent of the 50 percent of waste through our initiative, #UseTheExisting. Our dream is to achieve zero waste. Are we able to get there? I don’t know. But currently, this means that Zegna uses 65 percent of raw material.
ICON: If you were to highlight one positive catalyst from 2020, what would it be?
SARTORI: The brand in 2021 has been designed to the values of Ermenegildo Zegna. We don’t market these values, but they pertain to our mindset, our credo and our vision. The motto that the founder established with the house in 1910 was to produce the best product in the world, respect the community and take care of the environment. He was working with these three very clear dreams. At the time, he was building schools and hospitals, and in 1938 he started to plants trees that became a nature reserve…Today and due to what is happening around the globe, these values are more visible than ever before. There are a lot of angles, but certainly it is the product we do, how we work with people and the inclusivity of the brand.
Photography: Paul Morel
Creative Direction: Dané Stojanovic
Fashion Direction: Marne Schwartz
Grooming: Manuel Losada
Model: Talal Kahl
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