Every year, the Italian city of Milan plays host to one of the world’s premier design fairs, Salone del Mobile. For one week, established craftsmen, designers, fashion houses, and on-the-rise talent present new work and collaborations, reveling in a creative spirit that reverberates throughout every nook and cranny,
Of course, we are living in the age of Instagram, so when it comes to creating a truly memorable Salone presentation, designers and brands have needed to pull out all the stops to create not launches, but instead create immersive experiences that are both a feast for the eye and Instagram gold.
One of those brands this week was Ermenegildo Zegna, who chose the auspicious occasion to debut its new fragrance collection. In partnership with The Estée Lauder Companies, they presented the new Essenze Eau de Parfum collection during Salone del Mobile with a celebratory launch that boasted a dynamic, bespoke fragrance installation designed and fabricated by Zegna and The Estée Lauder Companies, inspired by material exploration house T H E U N S E E N.
The collection—which features five distinct fragrances: Mediterranean Neroli, Madras Cardamom, Florentine Iris, Italian Bergamot—is all united by a common ingredient: Bergamot harvested from a single field in Italy’s sun-soaked region of Calabria. These precious ingredients not only they sound good, but they smell incredible, a statement that may or may not have inspired the nature of the installation.
Hardly your average fragrance launch, guests were invited to step into one-of-a-kind glass amber fragrance chambers; a trope straight from that scene in the first live-action Spider-Man movie where Willem Defoe—playing Norman Osborn AKA Green Goblin—stands in a cloud of smoke while before transforming into the infamous villain. Once inside, guests were instructed to put on headsets, where music that matched the mood of the scent. Once the session concluded, you could then choose a color palette that best reads your aura after interacting with each fragrance. Genius, no?
The answer is sì!
We spoke with Alessandro Sartori in honor of the fragrance and installation launch at the Ermenegildo Zegna boutique in Milan, Italy, to pick his brain about fragrance, the Zegna man, and the dream of creating a timeless Maison.
ABRAHAM MARTINEZ: How did it feel when you first received the news that you would be Zegna’s first artistic director?
ALESSANDRO SARTORI: [I was] very happy that [Zegna] offered me this position. Mostly, because the house had incredible value. We are talking about real craftsmanship, we are talking about thousands and thousands of artisans, so it was a particularly important moment for me in my life, not only in my career but to me as my persona.
AM: How would you describe the Zegna man?
AS: He’s very, I think, passionate. An educated-in-fashion man who loves to try different garments, but keeps the style, the quality, and the craft at the center. He doesn’t like to change style every season—he likes to evolve style. He’s in love with the fact of mixing his wardrobe with new pieces to create a new silhouette, maybe by wearing the old jacket with the new outfit, or the new pant with the new shoes or old sweater, and so on.
This makes him more a collector, more a person that likes to evolve his styling—and that’s very interesting. This is why I do not think we are dressing a particular generation. It’s more ageless, with very, very common values in the style in the qualities, in the passion for what they are doing.
AM: When you all were developing The Ermenegildo Zegna Essenze Eau De Parfum collection, what were some of the challenges you faced?
AS: First of all, we really wanted to create a wardrobe, and we were writing— before starting—the keywords of the project, such as quality, innovation, craft, timeless, wardrobe, labors. And then we thought that to represent rightly men, having a very complete life, [so] 5 was a number. You can basically choose one [fragrance for] every day of the week, or eventually, you can blend them for the weekend. It is interesting that you can choose each one, but you still have the same feel, you’ll still yourself. Because, there are some ingredients, like the Bergamont, which is common, but the way the ingredients are treated, and the way they are blended, you feel they complement each other, but at the same time they have their own notes.
As I said, my favorite is the Madras Cardamom, because I like that fresh, almost spicy, deep type of soul. But, if you don't enter the [fragrance] cabin of Madras Cardamom, I suggest for you to enter into the cabin of your favorite one. You really feel the full experience, which is not only the smell. It’s also the feel, the color, the light, and that’s particularly interesting because, basically, the cabin measures out the reactants in a very different light. So, if you are in the range of red, it is still red, because the ingredients are red; [bbut] maybe I have a deep red, you have a light red.
AM: What are you hoping to bring to those who experience the installation?
AS: We want to tell the 3D story of a collection like this, which is not only good fragrance at first, it’s also to try to understand what there is after. So, of course, [after] a minute, the experience lasts not that long, but you can really stay in there, closing your eyes and standing. What you get in the beginning, what is coming after, and what you get when you leave. And the thing that is [most] important [is] we want to offer a unique experience to understand the very crafted world of fragrances.
AM: Out of all the human senses, why do you feel smell is so important?
AS: I think [of] smell [like] music you can hear, offering a compliment to who you are. We all have many layers, no? Style is a layer, your self-expression is a layer. The way you move is a layer. But, I really like that even without watching you, I can feel you through a fragrance, and that’s particularly interesting to me.
AM: Finally, where are you hoping to take Zegna next?
AS: I really love his idea of a timeless Maison. And in Italy, and not only in Italy, but in Italy, Zegna is, of course, one of the most important and most known Maison. And to me, Maison is not only about product and style, but it’s about a lifestyle that you can communicate, that you can offer, that you can express through what you do, and that’s about making a wardrobe of fragrances, and that’s particularly important.