Ermenegildo Zegna’s urban renewal
Now, that’s what we call an epic fashion show. And a brilliant opening to Milano Moda Uomo from Alessandro Sartori for the house of Ermenegildo Zegna, staged with intense bravura inside a monumental former steel plant.
It felt like Chernobyl in Lombardy, as the audience of 800 gathered inside the Area Ex Falck; a massive, rusting factory the size of a football stadium, with an anthracite runway. The plant was so far north of Milan one half-expected Swiss border guards to ask us for our passports.
Here, we witnessed a collection where the leitmotif was the use of waste material to create a noble wardrobe. The result was a dramatic collection created in fine wools, dazzling nylons and natty knits, all culled from scraps of fabrics normally lost on the cutting room floor, but this season re-spun into beautiful materials.
It could have been a gimmick, but in the hands of a master tailor and gifted colorist like Sartori, it led to a great show and collection. From the crushed nylon and cigarette-slim suits in Scarlet Pimpernel-stripes, to the fabulous exaggerated houndstooth dusters, there were a slew of great images – ideal for magazine editorials.
Perfect too, for Instagram moments for Zegna’s great celebrity front row. It included Oscar winner, Mahershala Ali; Chinese pop-star, Wang Ziyi; actor Daniel Brühl; German uber model, Toni Garrn; and Italian singing sensation, Mahmood.
Sartori’s sense of color remains second to none; teal nylon bombers or jackets, dusty pink jerkins and burnt rose quadrophenia parkas.
"Our starting point was recycling all the waste in production: 20% of all fibers are lost between their origin and final yarn. A further 25% are lost cutting the pattern. And, also 10% is left over from pieces we don’t sell or ship. So, a lot of this collection is recycled. When that happens the fibers are shorter and the fabrics are a little crispier. One-fifth of this collection is done with those fabrics," beamed Sartori proudly.
This designer is a master of textiles – whether the photo-print suits, worthy of Roy Lichtenstein, or the superb graphic knits. Though the key element was, ultimately, the tailoring. Beginning with the rippling pleated pants paired with a one-button and patch-pocket jackets; and ending with strict three-button blazers.
The footwear wasn’t half bad either – most notably the two-tone, nubby boots to the cool mini fanny-pack-meet-satchels with geometric patterns.
Backed up by a churning soundtrack – which began with dark machine noises and climaxed with a great techno track, 'Dominae' by Agoria – this was a big fashion statement.
Coming after a great weekend in London – with its endless ability to throw up raw, young talent – this felt like one had stepped up another gear. From the setting, music, drama, opulence of the materials and avant-garde professionalism of the collection, this was the menswear equivalent of a major Champions League match, with Sartori a candidate to become the eventual winner.
Like the fabric scraps, the space will have a new lease of life. The area has been re-zoned as a hub for health and science. Chernobyl had no such luck.
"It’s a city in evolution," commented Sartori, as editors and friends swirled around him.
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