My father was an Armani man, but his thirtysomething son was a Zegna dude. Since the turn of the millennium the majority of the suits and sportcoats I’ve purchased and owned have been from Ermenegildo Zegna’s ready-to-wear line, most of them being made from whatever “Trofeo” grade wool looked most outrageous at the moment. Just last year I bought what will likely be my final pair of Zegna coats; the future for me is mostly Hickey Freeman on the low end and Richard Anderson on the high.
Like the nice folks at Rolex, the Zegna family has managed to put a relatively upscale and reasonably exclusive face on a company that moves a whole lotta product. Rolex makes over a million watches a year; Zegna is the largest upscale fashion brand with boutiques across the globe and a vertically-integrated manufacturing operation that does Armani and other brands behind the scenes. It’s all relative, of course. Rolex did $4.7 billion worth of sales last year and Zegna did a quarter of that. Still, it takes quite a few $11,000 watches or $3500 sportcoats to make those numbers.
Those of you who gag at the idea of paying motorcycle prices for machine-made suits might want to read the new Grailed piece on the history of Zegna. It’s impressive, to say the least. The company has never deviated from its vision. More importantly, in an era where most “luxury brands” are mere tentacles of LVMH or Richemont, the man who runs Ermenegildo Zegna today is named after the founder, who happens to be his grandfather. The company controls production from sheep to showroom floor. I’ll also say that they make a hell of a product. Eleven years ago I managed to fall out of a moving car while doing something remarkably stupid. I landed on my back and elbows, which were covered by a 1997-era Zegna standard-issue tweed coat. The impact was strong enough to scrape my skin beneath the clothes, but the Zegna coat remained intact and I wore it for another five years before misplacing it due to alcohol consumption at a press event. Try doing that with your Chinese sportcoat, why dontcha?