Ermenegildo Zegna on Streetwear, Fast Cars, and the Art of Power Dressing

As the elder statesman of the family, Ermenegildo Zegna oversees a menswear empire spanning more than 60 countries and six continents. Since taking over the company his namesake grandfather founded more than a century ago, he has spent four decades establishing Zegna as a global fashion powerhouse. Alongside artistic director Alessandro Sartori, Ermenegildo Zegna is now focused on keeping pace with the ever-changing demands of the 21st century while staying true to the brand’s roots in traditional tailoring. The recent results of their efforts are XXX Couture, a fashion line with hypebeast appeal, a machine-washable Techmerino suit, and a booming sideline in luxury sneakers. We sat down with him at the opening of Zegna’s new Toronto flagship store to talk shop.

Did you have an inkling that Canada’s luxury market would become so significant?

From the early days, there was a strong feeling here. The men loved the quality of the garments. The international aspect is part of life in this country — even more now than in the ’80s — and fashion is part of that.

How does a tailoring company respond to streetwear?

For Zegna, streetwear is about creating stylish wardrobes that have a technical component, like stretch fibres or jersey. We’ve created XXX Couture as luxury streetwear for the young who want to be more fashion-forward, but we also have Techmerino, which is more classical, yet still very comfortable to wear. It’s all part of an urban wardrobe.

How important are sneakers in that wardrobe?

Sneakers are very important. At our event in New York yesterday, of about 30 people at a pretty dressed-up dinner, I would say a quarter were wearing sneakers. It has to do with comfort, but also having something in your wardrobe that makes you look different. It’s becoming a way of life.

Zegna played a role in introducing the 1980s power suit. Is there a 2019 equivalent?

Our bespoke is the ultimate power suit. And it’s not only with a double-breasted suit or a tuxedo — you can have bespoke casual wear. A bespoke jersey jacket — I think that’s the epitome of power dressing in a casual way. It’s close to art…like creating a sculpture. The hands of the master interpret your personality and create something for you only.

Artistic director Alessandro Sartori is frequently named as one of the most influential menswear designers in the world. What makes him so good at his job?

It’s like a chef. He’s not only buying the best produce at the market — it’s how he prepares it, and adds the right spices, and also how he serves it. He’s very attentive to details.

His latest collection focuses on the deconstructed suit.

Doing a deconstructed piece is almost more difficult than doing a conventional one. It’s a question of balance. Often when you look inside, it’s not well made or well finished. To me, this is really where his know-how comes in — the inside looks better than the outside. It’s like opening the hood of a Ferrari.

Do you have any Ferraris?

No, but I like them. I like Maseratis, too. I like the tradition, the elegance, the comfort. They were pretty innovative in the engines, too. I see many traits common to Zegna.