On a sluggish summer afternoon in Milan, Alessandro Sartori has a lot to do. Between showing off his spring 2019 fashion collection for Ermenegildo Zegna and getting started on next fall’s designs, he’s busy comparing fabric swatches at the textile trade show Milano Unica, while also organizing the logistics of moving into a larger house. It’s a stacked itinerary for a designer who’s known for the slow and steady practices of handcrafted men’s fashion, but Sartori says he finds the pace invigorating.
“I ran out of space for my archives,” he explains of his move to another home in Milan. “I have an obsession with collecting.” Those pieces include a 1950s topcoat he discovered in a London vintage boutique (“a personal favorite”) as well as items from his own past, including Chelsea boots and a calfskin carry-on from his five-year tenure at LVMH leather house Berluti, as well as Zegna prototypes he created more than a decade ago. “It’s all deeply personal,” he tells Alexa.
Indeed, the designer’s appointment as artistic director of Ermenegildo Zegna in February 2016 was a homecoming of sorts. Before Berluti, he designed for the company’s younger, sportier collection, Z Zegna, from 2003 to 2011. This second time around, Sartori has taken the driver’s seat as the house’s first group-wide artistic director, overseeing everything from its runway collection (Ermenegildo Zegna Couture) to commercial pieces, fashion campaigns and special projects.
“It was incredibly touching to return,” Sartori says. “It seemed like so much time had gone by, but it also felt like home.”
In the two years since, the designer has emphasized the technical and performance elements of Zegna, which launched in 1910 as a small wool mill. Last year, Sartori was tapped by his friend, choreographer Benjamin Millepied, to create custom Ermenegildo Zegna Couture looks for a performance series by LA Dance Project in Marfa, Texas. The clothes “needed to be light as air,” Sartori recalls. They matched his weightless spring 2018 collection, which also channeled an elevated sense of sport.
For fall 2018, Sartori looked to another friend for inspiration: Swiss photographer Thomas Flechtner, who creates images of frozen landscapes by shooting snow-covered locales over a series of years. Flechtner dreamed up a runway backdrop of freshly fallen snow to complement Sartori’s modular wardrobe offerings, for a fusion of sporty, tailored and hybrid designs.
The collection included rich-toned, sustainably dyed fabrics (known as Oasi, Zegna’s signature cashmere) and silhouettes that utterly challenged the status quo. Most emblematic, perhaps, was a “one-and-a-half-breasted blazer”. For the man who is just a little extra — and adept at straddling multiple realms.
“Today is about the fusion of different old worlds,” says Sartori. “The styling, the silhouettes, the freedom and self-confidence are now all together.”
By Joshua Glass