10 Minutes With: Ermenegildo Zegna Artistic Director Alessandro Sartori - Neiman Marcus

10 Minutes With: Ermenegildo Zegna Artistic Director Alessandro Sartori

Rob Brinkley

May 16, 2017


Alessandro Sartori takes the driver’s seat at Zegna

Could your next Ermenegildo Zegna suit, shoe, or jean—so modern, so intrinsically Italian—have been dreamt up behind the wheel of a 1965 Ford Mustang? Under the intricate glass dome of a Victorian shopping arcade? From the steps of a 15th century cathedral, all marble and majesty?

Yes, yes, and absolutely yes.

Alessandro Sartori finds inspiration from many eras. Scroll @alessandrosartoriofficial on Instagram and you’ll be whisked from avant-garde (art, architecture, dance) to artisanal (shoes being cobbled with well-worn tools) and back again. Now those travels through time and space are weaving their way into everything Zegna. Last June, Sartori joined the 107-year-old fashion house as artistic director. (Make that rejoined. Sartori served as creative director of the Z Zegna collection before being recruited by a Paris-based company with a history even longer than Zegna’s.) The new post involves “full creativity,” from design to imagery to branding, says Sartori, who absorbed the tailoring business from his grandfather and mother and cut his first suit at the ripe old age of 14. His mission now? “Collapsing the wall between craft and modernity. It’s a beautiful clash between.”

Sartori is acutely aware how menswear has evolved. “Today, we go much deeper. It’s more like 3-D design. We think about every detail of every garment, the inside as much as the outside.” He is mining Zegna’s history—the 1910 founding as a wool mill and fabric producer, the 1960s launch of ready to wear, the conscientious expansions since—while also looking far into the future. He sees the Zegna man as eternal. “We’re designing for different generations and ages, an international, ageless guy.”

That means new fabrics, new pieces, and new ideas from the company’s edgy Milan headquarters and a staff Sartori describes as “experienced people mixed with young people,” a contrast he relishes. “I leave my office at night and I don’t feel tired,” he says, laughing. “There is a lot of good energy.”

Access to the family-owned company’s proprietary fabrics—innovative wools, mohairs, cashmeres—opens endless possibilities. “It’s like working in a candy store.” But when Sartori can be coaxed into taking a break, he packs a bag and a camera and hits the road in one of his vintage cars, preferably that navy blue ’65 Mustang. The thoroughly Italian designer climbs into his utterly American car—a beautiful clash, indeed—pulls on driving gloves, turns the key, and disappears, “never,” he says, “taking the highway.”

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