For many brands in the modern era, sustainability is an obligation — at Z Zegna, it is a religious calling. The Ermenegildo Zegna diffusion has always borne the fruits of vertical integration: building a reputation for innovative sportswear made using bleeding edge fabrics concocted by its Biella-based boffins. Under Artistic Director Alessandro Sartori, the label’s continuing commitment to sustainable design has embraced shades of activism — fully evident from a desertification-themed S/S 2020 presentation earlier this week.
Sustainability is inarguably the soul of Sartori’s vision: however, his latest endeavour — staged within Florentine fortifications built during the 14th century — weans notions of environmental and ethical responsibility on the blood of tradition. The symbolism was unmistakable: mannequins wrapped in futuristic performance wear — goggles and all — inhabited a VR desert, all within the confines of the Fortezza da Basso — a meditation on how Zegna’s sartorial past is colliding with a potentially suit-less future. “Where there was before a split between sportswear and tailoring,” says Sartori, “[we now] want to apply a tailoring approach to every aspect of Z Zegna — how the silhouette is made, the fabrics, the construction of the shoulder”.
The presentation wasn’t some hackneyed attempt to cash in on prevailing social mores — far from it. Long before “sustainability” became fashion’s buzzword, Z Zegna was already closing the loop around responsible manufacturing. This season, a silky smooth parka — made entirely from recycled water bottles, emblazoned with semi-translucent madras checks — proved the brand is edging ever-closer to its “zero waste” objective. Tailoring — at least the kind that we traditionally associate with the Milanese — made scant appearances, though what was there demonstrated wool’s unrivalled capacity for adaptation: Techmerino suits cast in shades of bone and olive were finished in moiré, each glimmering like a mirage amidst the sands. Gauzy knit tops and synthetic legwear were a more frequent occurrence, giving fashion bros a relatable point of entry into the rest of the collection. To be sure, not all of Sartori’s designs seem fit for the purpose of wasteland survival — the thermal-lined tracksuit is unlikely to protect you from enraged cannibals — though they mostly get across the kind of visual sinew you’d expect in a world that runs on Guzzolene.
In an industry as notoriously polluting as fashion, Zegna has always been a welcome presence; pursuing an agenda of environmental and social activism without ever losing sight of the endgame — a luxe-feeling product. Z Zegna S/S 2020 doubles down in a way which feels authentic without ever becoming preachy; “Mad Max” overtones aside, it’s a collection ripe for urbanites living in any of the world’s great cities.
To learn more about the Z Zegna S/S 2020 collection, visit Ermenegildo Zegna online.