Alessandro Sartori’s Gambit on Male Style

The artistic director of Ermenegildo Zegna on new Zoomwear, what #UseTheExisting means today and the four pieces he will pick for Indian men from his most recent collection ‘(Re)Set’

The script of the new male wardrobe is already a bit worn by now, you may agree. Modular, fluid, brighter colours, relaxed fits, more casual than formal, luxurious, slinky blends for top layers, sophisticated tailoring used to stitch gender non-conformity rather than taut machismo. We know this story. We have read it, seen it, maybe tried it, styled it and allowed our always neuroplastic memories to store it. Brands follow the same turns except that with imaginative creative directors, they have an opportunity to author new scripts, or overwrite old ones so that we can get out there on the stage of our lives (a board meeting, event, wedding, conference) to act, enact, rehearse and role play it.


Alessandro Sartori, artistic director of Italian luxury giant Ermenegildo Zegna Group, is among those recognised authors who are changing male wardrobes. Designers who define style transformations by the way they think, use legacy and archival ideas to cut, “reset” and reform fabrics and shapes. Who gambit boldly.


Alessandro Sartori, Artistic Director at the Ermenegildo Zegna Group.

Even before Zegna presented its first phygital show last year in July, Sartori, who was applauded for his authentic staging—where fabrics embraced men, and men embraced nature and nature lovingly hugged everyone back during a resolute walk (3.3km for the models to be precise) through Oasi Zegna—had been speaking about the revolution of the male wardrobe. He had been at work bringing in the transformational tweaks he was speaking about. Before the models took off to Oasi Zegna, Sartori was walking his talk. Oasi Zegna is a nature reserve in Trivero, Italy, with more than half a million trees planted over a few decades in a forward thinking environmentally committed move by the storied brand’s founder Ermenegildo Zegna.

In January with ‘(Re)Set: (Re) Tailoring the Modern Man’, Sartori stopped beating around the bush to bring in what he calls “Zoomwear”.

In this email interview, he talks about all that is new. Rewired masculinity, men themselves, their clothes, the new fabric blends and materials that first align with sustainability and why #UseTheExisting has a life of its own. Also his personal wardrobe favourites that transcend from the private to the public.

You brought in the ‘phygital’, you now have the “New” Milan, there is conversation about the “New Man”, we are all living in a “new” post-pandemic world; Zegna has argued for “New” fabrics that are sustainable. In this context, how would you define the “New” purely in fashion? What is new fashion?  

No one could imagine that a pandemic like the one we have lived and we are still facing could change our normal habits for so long, giving us the chance to reconsider ourselves in our daily routine. The forced isolation can be very difficult to accept, especially if you are used to be all the time outside, meeting and working with different people to exchanging creative ideas as I regularly do. At the very beginning I was quite disoriented. And not only because I was alone in my apartment. The contagion and its consequences have been so intense and unparalleled that it was impossible to not feel weak. Day after day I felt a strength, a new energy overtaking me, which I had never experienced before. Life sometimes puts us in front of challenges to give us the chance to change. I didn’t stop working. My place became my studio. I covered the floor of my apartment with archive pieces from past collections, sketches, books, pictures that helped me to give life to my continuous inspirations to designing the new collections. By staying at home I also realised that I wanted to be closer to the public, to approaching technology differently as it offers infinite possibilities to dialogue with people. The new status injected a new attitude to everyone, to me and my team working remotely, and the freedom of thought helped to identify new creative processes. These are challenging times and at Zegna we have injected a new motivation to change the parameters to communicate, while staying true to our DNA. Consequently we decided to express a real change in direction to fully leverage our potential as well as to experiment new technologies by conceiving a phygital show for Summer 2021 Ermenegildo Zegna XXX collection and by experiencing a virtual show-room as well. With the Ermenegildo Zegna XXX Winter 2021 collection I felt the urgency to express the needs of people today. We all have gone through an unprecedented year. The RE(SET) I proposed aims to representing a new life and style that I called ‘ZoomWear’. Customers need fluid silhouettes, multifunctional yet comfort outfits. Therefore clothes blend seamlessly indoor and outdoor to reflecting the way we behave. This season we choose to communicate the collection through a short movie, a fashion film, were models were modelling and acting at the same time, carrying out a broader message. Fashion mirrors our life and I tried to get the best out of this situation, finding new solutions in terms of collections and in terms of presentation format accordingly.


Stills from (Re)Set: (Re) Tailoring the Modern Man

(Re)Set, steps away from the former constraints of formality in menswear, however, there is a collision between what we recognised once upon a time as menswear and what began to change. In all this, where does the “conservative” formal men’s jacket stand? Is its relevance gone? 

World changed and so did style. Men’s wardrobes have been revolutionised. Zegna tailoring take today evolves towards a luxury leisurewear attitude. Of course we keep our craftsmanship, high quality and savoir faire roots but we approach the design differently. That’s why we called this collection: (Re)Set – (Re)Tailoring the modern man. It’s all about a new lifestyle where tailoring has been translated into a refined and sophisticated style. A true sense of fluidity and cosiness pervades the entire collection. I wanted to re-conceptualise tailoring in a new combination of sartorial and casual where fabrics like jersey cashmere play a key role. Anyhow the collection is still made with our well-known expertise and passion that has characterised Zegna for more than 110 years and remains a key part of our knowhow. That is what makes us unique and authentic.

We are very interested in Zegna’s Existing Mindset/#UseTheExisting policy in materials. Can you tell us, besides the structured process for use/reuse of materials found during manufacture, how much of creative genius is required for this approach? 

Zegna is sustainable since inception. A sustainable and responsible approach has been at the core of our business for more than 110 years. Our historical wool mill, the work we do in our factory and the Oasi Zegna surrounding Lanificio Zegna, where the company was born in 1910, are one and the same. The nature all around informs us how we function as a company and how we keep continuing to act. Since ever Zegna had a very strong connection with nature, seen not just as a provider of resources and raw materials but also as a unique richness of diversities to preserve. The project #UseTheExisting is a tangible response. It is an all-encompassing mindset that marks Zegna’s commitment and pledge to make the zero waste dream come true by improving the usage of wool and technical fabrics from pre-existing sources through innovative processes. We launched this project 3 years ago with the Ermenegildo Zegna XXX Fall-Winter 2019 collection and it evolves season by season. Ermenegildo Zegna brand was born as a family business back in the beginning of the 20th century. The belief that a quality product can only come from within a working context of integrity, wellbeing and care for the environment was valid in the past as it is today.

From footwear to soft outerwear to relaxed even loose fits for leisure suits, your recent creations have been labelled as “hyper contemporary”. Has the man/the wearer, the client and consumer of fashion changed too? 

The way modern men dress, their needs and habits changed dramatically. To me it’s the time to rethink what is possible, reconsider what really matters and rebalance style while we are called to answering to the changing time. A new aesthetic is needed: fluid, ageless, adaptable, where comfort matches perfectly with style. At Zegna we call it Luxury Leisurewear.


Models walk the runway for Zegna’s (Re)set collection.

If you had to pick four pieces for Indian men from (Re)Set, which ones would it be?  

I would pick them all. Not only 4… But if I had to choose I would go for the camel looks and the green ones.  All the collection has been conceived with a new generation of fabrics – the jersey cashmere – that for us at Zegna represents a new frontier of our luxury leisurewear take.

What are your personal favourite wardrobe pieces in 2021? Has the way Alessandro Sartori dresses changed in the post pandemic fashion-person-material conversations? 

The way I dress today reflects my today life. A cosy but stylish look made of knitwear, underpinnings, deconstructed jackets, all in jersey cashmere, and slippers made of the same fabric. I like the idea, to think about a new wardrobe where the needs are colliding into a new aesthetic which is more modular and to dress in one way that works for everything we do where our private collides with our public.

Banner: An image from Zegna’s (Re)set collection //all images courtesy: Ermenegildo Zegna.