Explosion series by Jamie Chung.

Learning from the Past Part 3

It doesn’t get better than this. In our humble opinion, currently the best men’s wear designer in the world and one of the most directional voices in women’s talk to us about the past and tomorrow in this third part of our interview series.

Brie Welch’s interviews, which delved into her New York creative community for Part 2, crystallized that young Americans are sick of fast fashion and are deeply into second hand and used garments; a trend which is picking up steam globally. While in Part 1 we heard about social media sameness, season silliness, cruise cancer and the markdown malaise. So here is Part 3 of “LftP” with Zegna artistic director Alessandro Sartori and Marni creative director Francesco Risso. Both share some very surprising insights – while Sartori thinks nothing was wrong in the past, Risso dreams of a fashion world, which is suspended in time and space.

Sartori has also left a mark in his few years at Zegna by completely reinventing the business model with CEO Gildo Zegna, championing recycled fibers and helping the company to grow again. Offerings were scaled down, ad campaigns reflect a new masculinity, Zegna Couture is mixed with classic suitings and sporty Z Zegna pieces in stores, one color card for all design teams and most importantly, Sartori’s Berluti gig made him a shoe and sneaker expert. His Tiziano sneaker is probably the men’s luxury world’s most sold sneaker.

Risso’s Marni is at the vanguard of the new sustainable movement in fashion with his upcycled textiles, organic cottons, and recuperated leathers.  It’s a whole new Marni just like Celine was all-new under Phoebe Philo. In fact, Risso could become the new star of Milan as he aims to create fashion that gets under your skin. He lives and breathes his work 24/7.

The conversations with Markus Ebner have been condensed and edited.

Francesco Risso, Creative Director Marni

Creative Director Francesco Risso (photograph by Willy Vanderperre, courtesy of Marni)

What’s been going wrong in fashion?

My feeling is that product was thrown at customers from all directions, constantly. I think the industry lost a chance to truly rethink its pace. A few years ago, there was a window for fashion brands to actually readdress the mechanics of their business and map their own road, in line with their capacities and the behavior of their consumers. Weirdly, a conversation that was initially supposed to rationalize collections’ cycles, ended up creating some sort of short-circuit. The impression I had was that the market was suddenly saturated with products, some available then and some that would become available only later. It was really hard to make sense of it all, it felt a little random but also a little aggressive.

Runway Review Marni F/W 2020 from Achtung Digital.

What do you think must change?

I hope we now have a second chance to readdress those overproduction aspects of our industry. These last few months of “missed” business were a hard hit for many companies, even for those that we typically perceive as well-balanced. It makes you wonder how it’s even possible that some businesses are so gigantic, but yet so fragile. How can a fashion house built over years cave in after two months of missed sales? That, I really can’t explain – but it seems something we should figure out, because it’s probably key to it all.

Elias in Marni photographed by Gregor Hohenberg in Leipzig for Achtung Mode No. 39.

What would you like for the future of your business?

For the past year, my team and I have created clothes that were somehow linked with the notion of time. For the latest men’s wear show we made clothes that had history on their own, while with women’s wear we created clothes for and from another dimension, suspended among time and space, yet imbued with both. While creating those collections we reflected a lot on what time actually means, and how fashion is intrinsically interwoven with time. We played around with the idea of stopping or twisting time through the clothes to where we end up: on hold in a time and place that will lead to a world we still don’t know what it will look like.

Alessandro Sartori, Artistic Director, Ermenegildo Zegna Group

Artistic Director Alessandro Sartori.

What’s been going wrong in fashion?

I do not think that there was something wrong in the fashion system. Its rules were right for the consumers’ habits and their lifestyle before the pandemic. We are all now entering a sort of “new order” that the fashion system necessarily would need to adapt to. To me this “new order” should bring out the core of a business via their best practice.

Runway Review Ermegildo Zegna XXX F/W 2020 from Achtung Digital.

What do you think must change? 

Rethinking the consumers’ needs, keeping as much attention as possible on the product value, the style, and the lifetime of a product. There will be an actual need to dress up in our homes. This has not been considered in the past. Also, less is more. Collections should be conceived as focused as possible, which means meeting real customer needs and keeping style and the highest quality.

Alpha Dia in Ermegildo Zegna XXX photographed by Markus Pritzi in Paris for Achtung Mode No. 38.

What would you like for the future of your business? 

More integration as well as interaction between our distinguished Italian craftsmanship disciplines as well as usage of the boundless technology tools at our service. We will try in July with our phygital (physical and digital) show.

View our video on FW 2020 Menswear Highlights: Ermenegildo Zegna XXX

“LftP” will continue with Part 4 on May 8th by our chief reporter Silke Wichert.