Gildo Zegna: "There will always be a place for smart luxury brands"

As Men’s Fashion Week Milan comes to a close, Gildo Zegna talks about the brand’s future projects; a flagship in Milan’s prestigious Galerie Vittoria Emanuele, interest in African markets and a collaboration with ex-Saint Lauren Paris Creative Director Stefano Pilati, to launch an entire women's collection and to work on Zegna couture.


Gildo Zegna, CEO of the Ermenegildo Zegna group


FashionMag.com: What are your future projects?
Gildo Zegna: We have an exciting project coming up with the launch of our ‘Uomo’ fragrance with Estée Lauder this spring in Europe and in autumn for the United States. Our most recent news is of the flagship store in Galerie Vittorio Emanuele in Milan. We’ve been looking for a location for quite some time and we have just completed the deal. We should be ready to open the store at some point in 2013.

FM: Where exactly will the store be?
GZ: I am not able to give you that information – you’ll find out when we open!

FM: Are you looking to list the Ermenegildo Zegna group on the Italian Stock Exchange as certain press agencies would lead us to believe?
GZ: No – absolutely not! That is not of interest to us. We want to stay independent and private. We have the power and the resources to make it through the current crisis and to push growth and development. We are not looking into acquisitions either – we believe in organic growth.

FM: Not long ago Stefano Pilati, ex-Creative Director at Saint Laurent Paris, joined your team. We saw he was with you at the show (12 Janaury). What will be his role at the company?
GZ: Stefano Pilati will have two main missions: overseeing women’s wear at Agnona and working Zegna couture. The Agnona brand currently focuses on knitwear, accessories and luxury sportswear. We want to launch a complete women’s collection including leather goods. We are looking at opening more stores and expanding the retail network to help support this desire. As for menswear, we are going to strengthen our most luxury offering – Zegna Couture. Stefano is going to be in charge of design and creation. The line will be very niche, hand-made and only sold in a few of our stores. Stefano is going to bring a touch of modernity to the line. He is also in charge of the future Ermenegildo Zegna shows.

FM: How do you see the luxury market?
GZ: Crisis or no crisis, there will always be a place in the market for intelligent luxury brands because quality of life is constantly improving - even in newer markets. If you attack the market with high quality products and an innovative service you will have, in my opinion, the chance to earn a share of the market. In today’s situation, rather than focusing on a market or a region, it is important to take client profiles into consideration. Through your brand’s stores, you will learn to understand your clients, to be able to follow their decisions and eventually, you will even be able to anticipate their needs. The luxury industry gets 40% of its business from tourists – that’s 40% of a 200 billion euro industry.

FM: What are the interesting new markets for the luxury industry?
GZ: According to the research, there are many countries being neglected by the luxury industry, such as Angola, Nigeria, South Africa and Australia, so these could all be of interest. That is how the Chinese market was born, much like Turkey, Mexico or Russia. Ermenegildo Zegna was a pioneer in China. We arrived in 1991 before anyone else in the luxury sector had discovered it. It was really a mix of courage and madness that drive the decision. To this day, we still try to adopt this same state of mind.

FM: How developed are you in Africa?
GZ: We also have a concession in a store in Cairo, Egypt. We are currently studying the possibility of opening in Angola and South Africa. We are also thinking of Mozambique. It is important to plant seeds in these small markets. With the right care, these seeds can transform into plants, into fruits…much like in China. In 20 years’ time, Africa could be as important as China is today. The same thing could happen in India, where we have opened five stores in the past five years. We are also thinking of Indonesia and Vietnam, where we will probably open a second concession. Let’s just say there is always a new market to enter!

FM: What is the future of men’s fashion looking like? Do you think there is still potential?
GZ: Definitely! Figures show that men’s fashion has grown more than women’s in the past five years. There has been a certain change in the way men shop over this time period; they have a more feminine approach to shopping, especially outside of Europe. Men’s shopping habits in Europe are still fairly rigid, but thankfully we have large international clientele. With consummation decreasing in Europe, it is difficult to witness any growth with such conservative spending behavior.

FM: How do you see 2013 going for you?
ZG: It is difficult to make predictions, but we think it is going to be a positive year for the Ermenegildo Zegna group. We are expecting to see a more modest growth rate this year because of unfavourable exchange rates. For us, growth is essential. A healthy company that has courage and intelligence should always be growing. It can’t just stay still. That is what has happened in our domestic market of Italy and also in Japan. The market has been stagnant for 10 years. It poses a real problem because there is no future without growth. We want to continue to grow, even if we don’t see a double-figured growth rate as we have the past two years. For 2012, predicted growth is at 11% to 1.25 billion euros.



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