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Mahershala Ali.

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Nicholas Tse.

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Backstage at Ermenegildo Zegna Fall/Winter 2019 show.

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Backstage at Ermenegildo Zegna Fall/Winter 2019 show.

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Backstage at Ermenegildo Zegna Fall/Winter 2019 show.

Style: Man of the moment

Zegna is taking the lead to redefine the meaning of masculinity.
Sep 13, 2019 5:50 AM

THE ROAD TO change begins with the first step. With its pedigree as one of the world’s top luxury brands, Ermenegildo Zegna is doing just that. In their new Fall/Winter 2019 campaign, the brand is taking a stand to eliminate masculine stereotypes and welcome vulnerable traits such as love and self-expression.

“The debate on masculinity is very heartfelt and has a huge impact on society,” says Gildo Zegna, CEO of Ermenegildo Zegna, in an exclusive email interview with Weekend. “To be able to do this at a moment when society is looking at masculinity in many different ways, we need to not only be part of the conversation, but lead it.”

The start of the #Metoo movement last year sparked an important conversation about gender equality. But it’s not just about listening to and empowering women, but about dealing with the issues of toxic masculinity. Mr Zegna agrees. “I firmly believe that the static, traditional notion of masculinity no longer works, if it ever did to begin with.” He also believes that men these days are more emotionally available, which is a huge leap from the days when boys were told not to cry or to “man up” every time they faced grief. “I think they are coming to terms with their inner weaknesses as well as their strengths,” he continues.

As a brand, Zegna is not just progressive with their designs, but ideas as well. With their latest #whatmakesaman Fall/Winter 2019 campaign, the 110-year-old brand wants to actively engage a conversation about what makes a man today. “It isn’t just a brand campaign,” says Mr Zegna. He believes that this is an opportunity for the brand to rethink its strategy, values and interaction especially with an impressionable younger audience.    

After years of succumbing to advertising promoting sexism by glorifying the alpha male, many brands like Zegna have finally realised that they need to step up and assert the power they own more wisely. Mr Zegna explains, “With this campaign we wanted to foster a conversation around the meaning of modern masculinity… we also want to broaden the dialogue with the new generations. Millennials and Gen Z both understand that menswear — and clothes in general — is no longer about just looks, but about values and lifestyle.”

With this new direction in place, Zegna tapped two-time Oscar winner Mahershala Ali and Asian celebrity Nicholas Tse to front its campaign. As Mr Zegna puts it, “Both men reflect a modern idea of masculinity: positive, authentic, and inclusive.” In fact all these traits that shape the new generation of masculinity is also aptly illustrated in the brand’s print advertising. A far cry from its previous campaigns, this season’s portraits are more candid and playful especially with the use of handwritten typography. The scribbles give it a personal, diary-like feel, which makes the message feel more relatable.

While nothing can change overnight and stereotypes will continue to exist, brands like Zegna are showing that they can use their influence to shape social conversations, proving that fashion isn’t just about mindless consumption, but a force for good as well.


Fashion Unity

Another Zegna breakthrough this season, is its focus on sustainability.

Ermenegildo Zegna’s artistic director Alessandro Sartori’s Fall/Winter 2019 collection included a multitude of innovative and multifunctional designs using recycled and recyclable fabrics. One-quarter of the collection makes use of nylon, cashmere, and wool pieces recycled from the brand’s factory under its initiative known as the #UseTheExisting campaign.

CEO Gildo Zegna explains that the idea of sustainability dates back to his grandfather’s time when he founded the company in Trivero, near Biella, in 1910. “It was his vision to develop a sustainable company committed to taking care of the environment — to give back to its people and the community around it, and also to support the local culture.”

Recently, Zegna and 150 other brands joined French president Emmanuel Macron’s “Fashion Pact” to reduce the environmental impact in the fashion industry. The Pact targets three areas - global warming, ocean conservation and restoring biodiversity. Says Mr Zegna, “Joining forces, we can make remarkable achievements. The Fashion Pact is just a natural next step in our journey, a continuation of the commitment initiated by our founder more than a century ago.”