Alessandro Sartori Talks ZEGNA x The Elder Statesman, Driving Innovation and Fashion’s Current Climate
ZEGNA’s Artistic Director provides insight on the brand’s growing partnerships and what it’s doing to adapt towards a sustainable future.
ZEGNA is one of the world’s most recognizable luxury menswear brands. The Italian label is steeped in the tradition of fine tailoring and timeless men’s clothing. However, in the age of fast-paced fashion trends, ZEGNA is learning to adapt, innovating the ever-evolving menswear wardrobe while staying true to its luxury heritage.
A brand’s adaptability is crucial for success, and ZEGNA knows that luxury today reflects the merging of global styles and cultures, old and new. ZEGNA is renowned for its impeccable craftsmanship and use of premium textiles. Whether classic suits or overshirts, polos and luxury leisurewear, the Italian fashion house is more than capable of producing these products with the highest regard to quality. This in turn, has allowed the label to attract a wider clientele, ranging from young fashion-forward enthusiasts to traditional shoppers looking to supplement their suit collection with street style-inspired pieces.
ZEGNA today is more than just a luxury clothing brand. It has redefined itself as a global fashion mainstay by leveraging partnerships with companies such as footwear brands norda™ and Triple Stitch™ MRBAILEY®. These relationships have not only broadened ZEGNA’s reach, but have also brought vitality within the company. It’s newest partnership with Los Angeles-based company The Elder Statesman also signifies ZEGNA’s openness to work with non-traditional luxury brands – The Elder Statesman creates finely crafted knitwear that fuses street style elements with high-end production. The highly-coveted collaboration appeals to a wide range of fashion consumers who have a knack for elevated ready-to-wear essentials. And in terms of knits, OASI CASHEMERE for ZEGNA is intentive to be a trademark of traceability and accountability, it was launched last year is a fine example of the brand’s dedication for a more sustainable future. The house claims that by 2024, all cashmere fibers it uses will be traceable, demonstrating resource conservation and more importantly, environmental protection.
Hypebeast had the chance to talk to Alessandro Sartori, Artistic Director of ZEGNA, to explain further some of the Italian menswear label’s plans for innovation. He also gives some background on how the ZEGNA x The Elder Statesman collection came to be, in addition to how the brand brings its partnership endeavors from idea to execution.
Can you tell us more about the co-branding story behind ZEGNA’s partnership with The Elder Statesman?
As you are aware, ZEGNA is a very significant brand that receives numerous requests for potential collaborations. However, in the last five years, we have only had a few collaborations. This is because we are always seeking for authenticity in our brands, we want tales with depth, and we like to partner with brands who reflect our beliefs. For example, they must be concerned with quality, people, and the environment, among other things.
I was familiar with The Elder Statesman brand long before we collaborated. I recall seeing their outfits in Los Angeles and other well-known select stores, and then I visited their facility in downtown Los Angeles and was fascinated by how their items are manufactured. Essentially, all of their products are handcrafted, and they only use the greatest quality cashmere. At the time, they had previously purchased some cashmere from Biagioli, an Italian cashmere spinning company controlled by ZEGNA and Prada. When we were working on the design, the idea of cooperating arose, and it was fascinating to experience ZEGNA’s design philosophy through their eyes.
So, with Edoardo Zegna (Chief Marketing, Digital and Sustainability Officer), I began weighing all of the options for a co-branded cooperation. Finally, we decided to collaborate since we share the same values: the same love for quality, the same love for clothing, the same love for environment, and the same love for the handmade process.
The ZEGNA x The Elder Statesman collaboration features more brilliant and colorful elements. In this collaboration, how did you merge ZEGNA’s historic look with The Elder Statesman’s more streetwear aesthetic?
In this collaboration, ZEGNA offers the highest quality cashmere for this co-branding and merges the attributes of each through the idea of a distinctive and exciting American brand.
True, ZEGNA’s color choices are usually more subtle, as evidenced by the tobacco, dark brown leafy tones. Furthermore, whether it’s our standard beige or our signature Foliage color, they’re all part of the Fall-Winter 2023 collection. Of course, there are bright greens and yellows that belong in the metropolis. However, one of the primary goals of this partnership was to combine the color options and heritage of both brands. As a result, we collaborated to create a color palette that integrates the genes of both brands at the same time, resulting in a new identity that comes with the collaboration. I’m sure consumers appreciate this blend as well, because we offer new, vibrant, and intriguing items and designs with high quality standards.
Luxury fashion has been adopting the streetwear aesthetic through collaborations, changing of logos and new products. With ZEGNA wanting to attract a younger clientele, how does it communicate and engage with newer audiences?
In reality, since changing the brand’s logo and name three years ago, we’ve made a lot of initiatives. We unified the various collections, rebuilt the ZEGNA brand, and updated the storefronts. In the process, we’ve introduced a new aesthetic that’s still associated with high-quality casual apparel, but we’re reaching out to a broader consumer base with pieces like the Overshirt, Triple Stitch™ Luxury Leisurewear Shoe, and so on. Overall, more people above the age of 25 are becoming customers of our brand, and the brand’s customer base has grown broader, younger, and more diversified since then. These changes can be witnessed in our stores on a daily basis, thus we aim to engage and resonate with people through various co-branded collaborations.
What factors does ZEGNA examine when deciding who to collaborate with?
The most significant factor, in my opinion, is the connection with the co-designer. If you don’t connect with the other designers, if you don’t have a psychological connection, the design will eventually be different. Because you need to trust and be trusted in order to design for a common purpose, the most vital factors are trust and feeling.
To address this question more specifically, we want to share our beliefs and visions. So, if the other company has these principles, which I define as high quality, passion for craftsmanship and manufacture, artisanship, modernity, and a similar attitude toward products, etc., we may begin a dialogue.
To be honest, if you have to collaborate once a day or five times a quarter, no one will grasp what you’re actually trying to do since you’ve done this and that. I believe that a few collaborations over the course of five years is sufficient to bring freshness, communicate a good message that matches our own brand and mission, while retaining our own vision and identity and avoiding consumer confusion.
ZEGNA’s progress for sustainability and traceability is evident in the OASI CASHMERE collection. How does this collection, which debuted last year, embody these objectives?
OASI CASHMERE is a long-running effort with the goal of providing the most sustainable and traceable cashmere. We trace the entire production process with no fiber production is outsourced to ensure everything is done in-house. We know every step of the process, from shearing to spinning to weaving to finishing, and everything is done inside the ZEGNA network for every single item of cashmere, from socks to hats, sweaters to coats. We can tell our consumers everything about their purchases, which we believe is critical today because the price may be high owing to the quality that must be assured. However, within that price range, we can provide true value in the form of a fully sustainable and traceable product.
This is a significant step forward for ZEGNA, and OASI CASHMERE serves as the foundation for our winter collection, just as the linen fabrics of OASI LINO, which we recently debuted, serve as the foundation for our summer collection.
With OASI CASHMERE, we offer the most sustainable and traceable cashmere. We trace the entire production process with no fiber production is outsourced to ensure everything is done in-house. We can tell our consumers everything about their purchases.
How does ZEGNA intend to improve cashmere traceability and ensure a more transparent and ethical supply chain in the future?
We all operate within the same organization with the same mindset, whether it’s a spinning company or a textile division under ZEGNA. We collaborate and share knowledge. When I speak with corporate employees, they advise me on the best solution. Or, when I ask them specific questions, I receive really honest replies. We’ll work with the fibers and materials in the most natural way possible to ensure that everything is done correctly. So it’s a kind of inside collaboration, and the reason we’re able to do what we do is because we keep all of the production internally aligned and the information transparent.
ZEGNA will remain committed to its basic values of quality, durability, and sustainability, while continuing to engage with consumers and address their more concerned demands.
How can ZEGNA effectively communicate with customers at a time when they are more concerned about fabrics, quality, and the environment?
We urge customers to put our clothes in their closets, wear them for years, and incorporate them into new clothing styles. Our products are eye-catching because they respect the consumer’s uniqueness, and they are beautiful because of their quality, not because of printed logos, complex needlework, or gleaming accents.
Besides, ZEGNA’s older consumers have always been concerned with quality and values, and now younger customers are as well. They are searching for true quality, which is an intriguing market shift, so we will continue to deliver high-quality, long-lasting products that fulfill the expectations of consumers of all ages. Finally, ZEGNA will remain committed to its basic values of quality, durability, and sustainability, while engaging with customers and satisfying their more concerned requirements.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.