Ermenegildo Zegna’s story is the story of a family business that begins when Michelangelo Zegna opens a textile factory in Trivero, Piedmont, at the end of the nineteenth century, an area where wool production was very flourishing thanks to the numerous waterways. Later three of his ten children, including Ermenegildo, and a fourth partner founded Lanificio Zegna & Giardino Vitri in 1910.
Ermenegildo’s idea is to start a production of fabrics that stand out for their high quality and are able to replace those imported from the United Kingdom. For this purpose, state-of-the-art machinery is used and the best raw materials are purchased from their places of origin, such as wool from Australia, alpaca from Peru, cashmere from Mongolia and mohair from South Africa. Ermenegildo Zegna fabrics interpret modern trends and are intended for the production of luxury men’s clothing.
Ermenegildo ‘s innovative marketing insights drive the company to a strong expansion; among the innovations introduced, the most successful is certainly the printing of one’s own brand on the fabrics. Furthermore, for Ermenegildo the community in which the company is located has always been very important, for this reason the success of the brand goes hand in hand with its commitment to the territory with the construction of houses for the workers, a library, a gym, a clinic and many other initiatives in the city of Trivero. In 1935 he obtained the nomination of Cavaliere del Lavoro and the title of Count of Monte Rubello from Vittorio Emanuele III.
The birth of the prêt-à-porter Ermenegildo Zegna.
Following the Second World War, Ermenegildo’s two sons, Aldo and Angelo, gained experience alongside their father until they took over the reins in 1966. Two years later the brothers introduced a great novelty: Zegna made its debut in prêt-à-porter with the first menswear collections. The new clothing manufacturing plant is opened in Novara and the finished garments are produced entirely in-hous. By following every process, from design, to creation, to distribution, the Maison thus obtains control over the quality of the final products whose purpose is to maintain the same high quality of the fabrics.
The Ermenegildo Zegna ready-to-wear focuses on men’s clothing with a tailored cut and at the same time innovative from the point of view of materials. Clothing thus became the main source of turnover, over 90%, of the company, so much so that in 1972 the tailor-made clothing service was introduced. The rapid development leads the production to expand internationally in Europe, the USA and Asia: Ermenegildo Zegna becomes a luxury brand in all respects
In 1980 the first single-brand boutique was opened in Paris, followed in 1985 by the one in Milan. The brand continues to focus on personalized service and quality of fabrics but also introduces accessories and sportswear.
New acquisitions for the Zegna Group
Between the end of the nineties and the beginning of the 2000s, the management passed to the third generation, that is to the sons of Angelo, Ermenegildo known as Gildo and Paolo, who became CEO and President of the group. Under their direction, Zegna maintains the family spirit but also implements a new expansion strategy through acquisitions and partnerships.
For example, in 1999 it acquired Lanerie Agnona, a historic brand in the processing of fabrics for women’s clothing. In 2003 he started the production of fragrances in collaboration with Estée Lauder, underwear with Perofil and eyewear with Marcolin. In 2014 he took control of the Australian farm Achill, excellence in the production of Superfine Merino wool. In 2016 it acquires the Bonotto textile company, in 2018 the Cervo hat factory and the New York brand Thom Browne.
The importance of sustainability
Since 2016, the artistic director of all the lines has been Alessandro Sartori, who immediately proves to be very attentive to sustainability in the design of the collections; Zegna reuses 35% of its production waste, as well as implementing a policy of recycling and reusing materials.
he well-being of the company and its surroundings have always been a priority, so much so that the brand has started an environmental redevelopment process. The Oasi Zegna project, born as early as the 1930s with the founder who financed the reforestation of the mountains near the wool mill, today continues to promote environmental and landscape protection projects
In addition there are the Zegna Foundation, dedicated to contemporary art, and Casa Zegna, a historical archive and cultural center within the wool mill. In 2021 the company is listed on the New York Stock Exchange and undergoes a rebranding using now only the Zegna name.