Passion For Quality: Ermenegildo Zegna

Passion For Quality: Ermenegildo Zegna

It takes a vision, a passion, a dream to make it big. The journey of Ermenegildo Zegna and his appetite for the finest fabrics is a testament to that factoid

Inspired by their visionary founder, ZEGNA follows its own path down the road that Ermenegildo built over 110 years ago in the mountains in Piedmont, northern Italy. His 232 road, crossing through the 100 km2 Oasi Zegna natural territory that surrounds the original ZEGNA Wool Mill, has been turned into the 232 Road Brand Mark – a graphic abstraction of the ZEGNA brand identity, where its history is consolidated into the founder’s family name.

Because some things are better done ‘old school’

The luxurious art of transforming wool into cloth may be tiresome. And most industries have made it into a science utilising top machinery but the procedure in Zegna mills remains the same. Of course, it is still a technology. The wool after getting refined a number of times becomes a cloth. In addition to the repeated combing and elimination of raw fibres, there are a few practices particularly followed for special materials.

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Later, each of the threads is delicately knotted together to transform the otherwise dull grey, boring black and white world of corporate menswear into a multitude of tasteful colours and patterns.

Influencing variety in corporate menswear might have been a challenge but what proved to be a bigger challenge was to incorporate class into the world of casual menswear. Using imagination in creating fabrics, the brand has shrewdly diversified its offerings.


Angelo Zegna, a watchmaker by trade, owned a wool mill and looms in the Alps of Piedmont, Italy. His son, Ermenegildo, 18 at that time, together with his brothers Edoardo and Mario, founded the company in 1910 in Trivero in the Biellese Alps utilising his father's looms and assets. He wanted these fabrics to be “the most beautiful in the world.” And indeed Ermenegildo succeeded like no other, as Zegna fabrics are considered exquisite and incomparable and amongst Italy’s most acclaimed exports.

During the Interwar period, Zegna's business started to flourish. In the late 1920s, the Lanificio (wool mill) employed more than 700 workers, growing to more than 1,000 in the late 1930s. In 1938 the company began to export fabrics in the US, through its subsidiary Zegna Woollens Corporation established in New York City.

In 1942, Ermenegildo's sons Aldo (born in 1920) and Angelo (born in 1924) entered the company, which was renamed Ermenegildo Zegna and Sons. In the mid-1950s, the company employed 1,400 workers.

Second Generation

Ermenegildo Zegna's sons, Aldo and Angelo, took over the company in the mid-1960s Under their guidance, the label both expanded its business to ready-made suits and established new plants and distribution networks abroad.

In 1968, the first factory producing sleeve-units and trousers was opened in Novara, followed by openings in Spain, Greece, and Switzerland. Sales and marketing departments were also established in France, Germany, the U.K., and the U.S. In 1972, Zegna launched its made-to-measure service called Su Misura.

From Mill To Milan

Zegna's attention to wool quality continued through the 1960s and 1970s, as the company established the Wool Awards in Australia (1963) and the Mohair Trophy in South Africa (1970). The international development strategy run by the Zegna brothers brought to the openings of the first owned boutique in Paris in 1980, followed by Milan in 1985. In 1991 Zegna became the first luxury label to open a store in China. Apart from its own label, Zegna also produces suits for other crowning competitors such as Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and Tom Ford.

The Zegna umbrella

Their expansion beyond clothes happened much earlier, in 1979, with their foray into leather accessories, from small leather goods to shoes. 1993 saw the launch of Zegna’s first fragrance and of ‘The Elegance Unseen’ campaign. In 1998, the company launched EZ by Zegna, the menswear collection brand for young fashion conscious Japanese consumers between 20 and 30 years of age, while the Zegna Sport line was launched in 1999.

In December 2000, Fondazione Zegna was established with an aim to translate the values of the Zegna Family and the Group into a series of international initiatives. Expanding further, it launched another trademark fragrance, Essenza di Zegna in 2003.

Next, in 2005 the brand launched its eyewear and optical frames collection with De Rigo, known for their distribution portfolio of high-end glasses. Another milestone was achieved in the year 2010, when ZegnArt was launched, an independent commitment focused on international collaboration in the field of visual arts.

Celebs and Zegna

There’s a string of celebrities who swear by gorgeously designed Zegna suits and accessories. Their list of brand ambassadors itself is testimony to the personality that embodies brand Zegna. The list includes the likes of Adrien Brody, Ryan Burns, Sam Riley, Jamie Dornan, Robert DeNiro, Alexander Skarsgård, Javier Bardem, Mahershala Ali and Michele Morrone.

The present face, Kieran Culkin, continues the custom. Becoming a Zegna ambassador, Culkin joins the brand’s 232 Community, named after the road crossing the Oasi Zegna headquarters in Trivero, a 90-minute drive from Milan. It includes musician Marracash, actor Isaac Hempstead-Wright, artist and choreographer Yagamoto, as well as soccer coach José Mourinho.

Zegna eyewear

It was in 2005 that Zegna decided to foray into the eyewear segment and collaborated with brand De Rigo to develop, produce, and distribute their collection.

The first collection was ‘vintage-futurist.’ There were different styles launched by the brand - Highway was more about metal frames and bold and sophisticated looks. Club was sporty and designed for leisure use, Nomad was vintage inspired, and then it was Zegna’s tailored line couture, which was made from ultra-light, hypoallergenic titanium for maximum comfort and durability. From then, there have been many changes in the domain of Zegna eyewear, the latest being the 2023 eyewear collection.

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