Sheep to Shop: An Ermenegildo Zegna journey

From the farm in Australia to the factory in Trivero, via the runway in Milan and into the boutique in Singapore, we follow the story of Ermenegildo Zegna’s fall/winter 2018 collection as it transcends continents and conventions

Australia

Trivero

Milan

Singapore

For easy navigation of this journey — from sheep to shop — just click on the three bars on the top right hand corner.

Achill Farm
Armidale, NSW
Australia

Wool and cashmere 1 & 1/2 breasted edge cut coat, cashmere high-neck sweater with jaquard mountain graphic and herringbone wool trousers, all by ERMENEGILDO ZEGNA COUTURE. Knitted Techmerino sock hiking boots by Z ZEGNA.

The yellow sweater is made from Oasi Cashmere, a Zegna-exclusive fabric dyed sustainably using flowers, herbs, wood, leaves and roots.

Denim cargo trousers with hand printed coating in cotton by ERMENEGILDO ZEGNA COUTURE. Knitted Techmerino sock hiking boots by Z ZEGNA.

Wool and cashmere 1&1/2 breasted edge cut coat and wool herringbone trousers, both by ERMENEGILDO ZEGNA COUTURE. Knitted Techmerino sock hiking boots by Z ZEGNA.

In 2014, Ermenegildo Zegna purchased Achill — an Australian wool farm in New South Wales with six generations worth of wool expertise — to better produce the best Merino wool money can buy.

Jacquard cashmere chunky D-neck sweater with leather collar details and wool and cashmere 1&1/2 breasted edge cut coat, both by ERMENEGILDO ZEGNA COUTURE.

Jacquard cashmere chunky D-neck sweater with leather collar details and herringbone wool trousers, both by ERMENEGILDO ZEGNA COUTURE. Knitted Techmerino sock hiking boots by Z ZEGNA.

There are about 10,000 sheep on Achill farm, all of which are raised in the open according to modern grazing practices.

Wool herringbone 1&1/2 breasted suit by ERMENEGILDO ZEGNA COUTURE.

Wool and cotton corduroy 1&1/2 breasted suit by ERMENEGILDO ZEGNA COUTURE.

Wool and cashmere 1&1/2 breasted edge cut coat, calfskin leather ski pant by ERMENEGILDO ZEGNA COUTURE. Knitted Techmerino sock hiking boots by Z ZEGNA.

To ensure the quality of the wool is continually refined, growers select only the superior wools and remove ones of lower grade. This practice enhances the wool characteristics with each generation of sheep.

Wool and cashmere 1&1/2 breasted edge cut coat and wool and cotton corduroy 1&1/2 breasted suit, both by ERMENEGILDO ZEGNA COUTURE. Knitted Techmerino sock hiking boots by Z ZEGNA.

WATCH: BEHIND THE SCENES VIDEO

  • Photography: Vanessa Caitlin
  • Styling: Norman Tan
  • Grooming: Anna Le
  • Model: Luca K / KULT
  • Production assistant: Sam Poh
  • Video: Paperhouse Productions

What goes into the buying of a wool farm?

Paolo Zegna is wearing an Akubra.
Paolo Zegna is wearing an Akubra, while seated on a bale of hay.
Paolo Zegna is wearing an Akubra, while seated on a bale of hay, inside a wool shed in rural Australia, and kicking up his Chelsea boots in raucous laughter.

Not exactly the image (or place) you’d imagine the chairman of Ermenegildo Zegna; the world’s largest luxury men’s brand. But, this mise en scène starts to make sense when you consider that Zegna has entered into a joint venture with Charles Coventry and his family since 2014 to manage and run Achill — the 2,500-hectare property in New South Wales that specialises in rearing merino sheep.

“Our relationship is built on mutual trust,” shares Paolo, brushing off the hay from his Zegna chinos as he hops off the hay bale. “And the fact that we are both driven by innovation,” he adds. “I respect that.”

In a rustic wooden shed — with wool filaments drifting through the air and catching the late afternoon sun seeping through shuttered windows — Paolo shares why the Achill project is important to Zegna, the vertical integration of the wool process from ‘sheep to shop’, and why, like Charles with his farm, decisiveness is fundamental to good leadership.

 

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The Zegna Wool Mill
Trivero
Italy

Trivero is a small Italian comune in the Alpine foothills near Biella, Italy, 80 kilometres west of Milan. Before Ermenegildo Zegna opened a textile mill in Trivero in 1910, its mountains were too rugged to sustain any type of farming other than sheep at the turn of the century.

Over time, shepherds stripped the mountains of trees to create even more grazing grounds, resulting in a bleak and barren landscape, one where only a smitten of wool mills emerged within the region. However, Zegna was unfazed. He was confident Trivero’s resources would be favourable for fabric production through technology and investment in highly-trained workers, who would soon come to work, live and build a community in Trivero, ensuring the superiority of Zegna wool till today. To date, aside from Lanificio Ermenegildo Zegna — aka the Zegna wool mill — Zegna has built in Trivero, houses, schools, a swimming pool, a sports centre, a hospital and even an orphanage to provide for his employees and their families.

 

Learn more about the fabric production process

Raw material selection

Zegna purchases the highest grade wool available for auction after touching, evaluating and testing each bale lot for fineness, quality and staple strength among other parameters.

Washing and combing

Each bale of raw wool is carefully washed and combed to remove the natural grease and vegetable impurities. The combing and re-combing of the wool helps obtain a ribbon-like tape of soft, pure wool called wool “tops”, rolled into big reels of worsted yarns used for tailored garments such as suits. The shorter fibres, known as the flock, are scoured and then gathered together to create bales of woollen yarns, used for knits such as sweaters.

Dyeing

Skilled operators are able to obtain a perfect replication of the colours conceived by the design team with the support of automated dye mixing technology. Mélange is one of the most sophisticated processes in fibre dyeing and is the preferred method in creating the rich tones Zegna is famous for.

Spinning

Woollen and worsted yarns are made through the spinning process. Woollen yarn is obtained through carding whereby the wool flocks are mechanically mixed to form a continuous web of soft, delicate, fluffy fibres. Because these fibres are short and irregular, pockets of air are created which serve as an excellent insulator, making them ideal for wintry fabrics. Worsted yarn’s long, parallel fibres are combed and twisted to form fine and “clean” threads ideal for lightweight summer-y fabrics.

Warping

The process of weaving wool into cloth requires the interlacing of two distinct sets of yarn — the warp yarn, which forms the vertical axis and the weft yarn, on the horizontal axis of the fabric, which crosses the warp to complete the weave. The preparation of the warp is a highly delicate process requiring manual dexterity and an intimate understanding of the various yarns and their properties.

Weaving

Once on the loom, the weft crosses the warp and completes the weave. Thanks to staff expertise and the state-of-the art looms that work alongside traditional machine, Lanificio Zegna can weave all kinds of fabrics, structures and patterns including extra fine silks and wools in which the yarn is so delicate and thin that when stretched it is difficult to see with the naked eye.

Finishing

The most important element of the final stages of the fabric production is water; it brings back the natural softness, brightness and elasticity of the fibres. The water used at Trivero springs at an altitude of 900 meters and is one of the lightest waters in all of Italy. This means it doesn’t alter or spoil the raw materials or change the natural characteristics of the wool.

FW18 RUNWAY
Milan
Italy
WATCH: ERMENEGILDO ZEGNA FW18 COLLECTION

Is Ermenegildo Zegna the past, present and future of menswear?

The luxurious hand of a jacquard cashmere sweater.
The nipped waist of a one-and-a-half breasted herringbone blazer.
The elegant whip of a full-length blueberry blue wool coat when worn in motion.

“Notice the triple X hand-stitched on the button hole?” asks Alessandro Sartori, creative director of Ermenegildo Zegna. I take a step closer, examining the lapel of a corduroy suit. “It’s taken from our sartorial heritage,” he continues, “the atelier uses a triple stitch to keep garments together in the assembly process.”

We’re in the Milan head office for the Italian heritage brand, and Sartori is personally walking me through key pieces of the Zegna fall/winter 2018 collection. Unveiled on a winter-themed runway just the day prior — complete with synthetic snowflakes dancing down from the ceiling; tangled in hair, covering models’ footprints — the triple X stitch motif (first released by Sartori during his debut SS18 collection for the house) has been amplified as the maison’s key signature: slathered across technical blousons, embossed on leather jackets and, what’s destined to be a commercial hit, painted onto the side of their white leather ‘Tiziano’ sneakers.

“Zegna is not just about classic suits,” explains Sartori. “We’ve applied our sartorial savoir faire to create functional menswear pieces with sportswear influences.” Personal favourites include tapered trousers with elasticised cuffs, weightless silk suits, and woven leather (known as ‘pelle tessuta’) baseball caps. In short, contemporary menswear with spunk.

Surrounded by his latest creations, I speak to Satori about the inspiration behind his FW18 collection, the continued rise of athleisure, and why ‘XXX’ marks the spot.

 

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Shop
Marina Bay Sands
Singapore
Light Gray Technerino wash & Go suit by Z ZEGNA
Light Gray Technerino wash & Go suit by Z ZEGNA
Light Gray Technerino wash & Go suit by Z ZEGNA
Chunky vicuna and cashmere knit in blueberry blue with macro XXX logo by ERMENEGILDO ZEGNA COUTURE
Off-white Tiziano low-top sneakers in smooth calfskin by ERMENEGILDO ZEGNA COUTURE
Off-white Tiziano low-top sneakers in smooth calfskin by ERMENEGILDO ZEGNA COUTURE
Off-white Tiziano low-top sneakers in smooth calfskin by ERMENEGILDO ZEGNA COUTURE
XXX canvas backpack by ERMENEGILDO ZEGNA COUTURE
XXX canvas backpack by ERMENEGILDO ZEGNA COUTURE
XXX canvas backpack by ERMENEGILDO ZEGNA COUTURE
XXX canvas belt bag by ERMENEGILDO ZEGNA COUTURE
XXX canvas flat zip pouch by ERMENEGILDO ZEGNA COUTURE
XXX canvas flat zip pouch by ERMENEGILDO ZEGNA COUTURE
Light Gray Technerino wash & Go suit by Z ZEGNA
Chunky vicuna and cashmere knit in blueberry blue with macro XXX logo by ERMENEGILDO ZEGNA COUTURE
Off-white Tiziano low-top sneakers in smooth calfskin by ERMENEGILDO ZEGNA COUTURE
XXX canvas backpack by ERMENEGILDO ZEGNA COUTURE
XXX canvas belt bag by ERMENEGILDO ZEGNA COUTURE

Go Deeper

Digital Creative Producer and Photographer: Vanessa Caitlin
Digital Editorial Director: Norman Tan
Text: Norman Tan and Jolene Khor
Illustrator: Hazirah Rahim
Montage Editor: David Bay
Developer: Alfred David