Whether it’s a coral sky shimmering in the reflections of the Oscar Niemeyer-built Mondadori building outside Milan, or the rubble and rust of an abandoned steel mine in the hinterlands north of the city, sensory experience is part of the Zegna show phenomenon.
Alessandro Sartori, the house’s creative director, doesn’t so much proffer a catwalk show as curate a moment and a mood. So the new digital way of doing things, while we patiently await the vaccine rollout, doesn’t lend itself naturally to his way of messaging. That said, the brand has gone further than most in exploring the capabilities of a 2D presentation, and its autumn/winter 21 show came with a script entitled Re(set) and an immersive catwalk film of models wending their way around new, emerging areas of Milan.
“For the spring/summer show, it felt right to focus on nature and light”, said Sartori of the showcase earlier this year, where for the brand’s 110th anniversary the collection was filmed in the mountains, forests and factory roof of Zegna’s HQ in Trivero. “But for winter, it felt right to come home to Milan, to an urban setting, to city life.” If things go as planned, a return to the grind of the metropolis won’t be far off, so the reality of a more dynamic pace in a pulsating city setting has a certain appeal after almost a year inside our homes.
The Re(set) moniker was fitting, given Sartori’s propensity for pressing pause on traditional forms of suiting and rendering them anew. Tailoring has been a focus of Sartori’s during his time at Zegna, and for winter he turned to fabrication to toy with notions of what makes a ‘proper’ jacket today. Employing jersey, a casual fabric usually used in sportswear, he created a series of ultra-light suit jackets that applied the ease of sportswear to the silhouette of a structured jacket.
A degree of wizardry is part of the magic Zegna alchemy; what looks like a nylon puffa in bottle green is in fact nubuck leather, pillowy and airy rather than stiff and rigid. Its artisans in Trivero, a cradle of technical innovation since Ermenegildo Zegna built the factory in 1910, were tasked with manipulating jacquard in a new away, so that a traditional houndstooth on a jacket became a jolting, interspersed pattern, all in one garment.
Despite being in their infancy so far, one of the hallmarks of the digital shows for autumn/winter already is, naturally, how men’s clothing will change post-pandemic. And it isn’t about a return to our old wardrobes, but a progression to other ways of dressing and expressing formality in a more nuanced way.
Sartori’s series of soft-structured jackets, cinched with robe-like belts instead of neatly tailored, with patch pockets, illustrated that eloquently - formality but with fluidity. Coats came with discreet slices in hidden panels, for hands to slide in and out of internal pockets. One black iteration of these came devoid of collars or lapels, a masterclass in minimalist understatement.
The designer’s mission at Zegna is the evolution of our wardrobes, a sort of pulling apart of the menswear genomes to create new forms of clothing, and the enforced reassessment caused by the pandemic has only served to prove him right. These are clothes for life PC (that’s Post Covid), and it can’t come soon enough.
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