Men's

Alessandro Sartori Is Back at Zegna

Artistic Director Alessandro Sartori is writing a new chapter in Zegna's history. Photography Marco Cella
Reading time 8 minutes

Everything is so different in fashion today, compared to what it was years ago, believes Ermenegildo Zegna's new artistic director, Alessandro Sartori. In the past, there was a perception that young men should dress one way and grown men another—and that this opposition could not be surmounted. If you ask him how to push a brand forward into the future, he will explain that fashion houses need to become lean and fast, and work concurrently on establishing a strong idea, which is precisely what he is doing at Zegna. 

At the artistic helm of Zegna, Sartori's collections are all about identifying a distinct style and making the brand recognizable for that style. In creating his silhouettes, Sartori sees himself both working on the design of a product and building a story—sometimes with the image in mind of noticing a stranger on the street wearing something that he designed and observing for him, even if only for a fleeting moment. 

He recognizes that today, fashion is more relaxed: Men want more freedom and the ability to be creative with their style. In his Spring 2018 collection, Sartori embraces the notion that people want to buy fewer pieces, which can blend with their wardrobe in a much freer and fresher way.

Clothing, shoes, accessories (throughout) Ermenegildo Zegna Couture

That said, he also strives to combine exquisite tailoring with sportswear in a manner that looks effortless. You can now wear sneakers with evening jackets or classic blazers with jogging pants. For him, that epitomizes the new dress code. It's not about accessories like ties or scarves, but more about sophisticated, unlikely combinations. 

"I think that today the vision for clothing has to be totally multigenerational," says Sartori. "I want to create garments that appeal across all age groups. And it must appeal across all nationalities. But this is not an approach of uniformity. Quite the opposite. All these men should be united by stylish, incredibly beautifully made clothes, but clothes that also give them the possibility to dress with a very personal approach. They should be able to be themselves in the best way through our clothes. This is, to me, the essence of personalization: being able to establish an authentic dialogue with our customers around the globe." 

It will be exciting to see how Zegna's use of sustainable practices and handcraftsmanship in their clothing and accessories will align with their foray into luxury sportswear. Sartori's latest challenge is maintaining a commitment to these design traditions at the same time as he works to create innovative fabrics at the forefront of garment technology. Sartori explains that his focus is directed at the treatment of materials to fashion creative silhouettes that both reference some of the house's classic looks and open the door to new territories. 

Sartori approached his latest collection with the mindset the needs of the company's customer base while with the mindset of meeting the needs of the company's customer base while adding modern touches to classic fabrics, like experimenting with jacquard to create a new material.

For him, the possibility of contamination, old methods brushing up against new technology, is fascinating. "Today, we can really create awesome things, layering beautiful inspirations one about the other, without overdoing it," says Sartori. "We have to keep what is beautiful and precious and make it evolve by contaminating some aspects of our aesthetic, style, and silhouette. A personal aesthetic is, for me, the fusion of two worlds that together blend into a third and unexpected one, where couture and sportswear creatively contaminate each other."  

For his latest collection, “Sketches from a Hidden Garden,” he envisioned a man who reimagines his father’s or grandfather’s clothing. Sartori’s playful take on tried-and-true silhouettes replaced classic shirts with deconstructed tops in various volumes. Doubled tank tops and scoop neck sweaters play with active yet tailored trousers and joggers.

"We have to keep what is beautiful and precious, and make it evolve by contaminating some sides of our aesthetic, style and silhouette." 

The collection of sport-inspired clothing features fluid washed silks, oversize handmade pockets and hoods, mohair, and Century Cashmere. There is a sort of ethereal feeling to many of the garments, constructed as they are with fabrics like mesh jacquard and perforated and intarsia leather. And the colors are delicate and natural, with Sartori favoring shades of lotus, walnut, cypress, and bleached aqua. 

“I tried to give an atmosphere of mystery by mixing pastel colors—such as white, pink, beige, or geranium green—with classic colors—like matte black, grey, and so on,” explains Sartori.  “The collection is flexible and light. A jacket is not a jacket anymore. I wanted a silhouette that changes when you walk: When you stand it’s a beautiful bomber, it’s a beautiful blouson, it’s a very nice piece of outerwear or a very nice double-breasted jacket. When you walk, due to the oversized silhouette and the weight of the fabric…the silhouette inflates and the body changes and creates something beautiful, light, with no weight, a very beautiful summer feeling."

Sartori’s idea of that beautiful summer feeling is manifested in garments like a tangerine-colored silk linen suit or a bicolored bomber jacket with suede and fabric worn with sweatpants. Fabrics like perforated leather linen, silk, and bleached denim also appear consistently throughout the collection. For summer jogger pants and jackets, bombers and blousons, Sartori relied on silk for its lightness.

As artistic director, Sartori oversees all of Zegna’s brands and creative functions—and is essentially writing a new chapter of the company’s history. His strategy is to streamline and establish a seasonal mood for each collection that works with a consistent color palette. He’s also moved from three brands to one brand with three collections. His vision is to ensure that what is sent down the catwalk actually reaches the shops, which has required a more vertical integration and coherent message within each collection, as well as with the entire global image and corresponding merchandise. 

That’s not to say that he rejects the heritage of Ermenegildo Zegna, whose wool mills opened near Trivero, Italy in 1910. Sartori admires Zegna’s passion for menswear and closely studied Zegna’s archive of fabric samples from the past 100 years. He has a powerful connection with the brand and especially with the company’s CEO Gildo Zegna. 

“We didn’t talk for five years. We saw each other two or three times in all those years, but we have always kept connected mentally because we share similar values,” says Sartori, who previously in 2003, was the creative director of the Z Zegna line. “When we finally talked to each other, it felt as if I was never gone.  My return has a very powerful meaning because of our special connection. It is a return to family and a beautiful challenge Gildo invited me to take part in.” 

The newly created role of artistic director has many demands, from design and style coordination to strategic marketing and communication projects, as well as stores and visual concepts. Sartori believes that Gildo Zegna is an expert at reconciling the need to protect the family’s heritage with the need to modernize the brand and production facility.

According to Sartori, Gildo Zegna has always paid special attention to preserving the craft tradition of the company while introducing innovation by hiring from among the younger generation and opening new workshops close to Parma that specializing in accessories. But Sartori’s most recent efforts were directed toward composing a team of just under 100 people dedicated to adapting made-to-measure techniques to sportswear.

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The brand also recently launched Achill Farm, an organic farm in Australia that produces 100% organic wool. He is fervently concentrated on combining ancient and new technologies, like vintage looms with technologically advanced machines, and ensuring the strength and reputation of Zegna. We are certain, though, that Sartori will find a way to perfectly merge these two different worlds—and create major innovations in style.

“I think with the rich experience the Zegna has accumulated over a century, we can create an exceptional future for the brand,” says Sartori. “And I feel Trivero is like a second home. When I’m at the wool mill and in the Zegna Archive, it’s like being in a candy store: the possibilities are endless for a creative person.”

Watch our Fashionable Tour of Zegna's Factory, below. 

A Fashionable Tour of Zegna's Factory

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