Zegna’s new store signals big plans

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Zegna’s new store signals big plans


It’s the fashion world’s most coveted trade secret: how to turn the name of a single person into a byword for luxury. According to the fourth-generation owner of Ermenegildo Zegna, however, all one has to do is run a private family business the way they would a public company.
It’s been nearly a century since Ermenegildo Zegna, an Italian merchant, started to sell fabric in the small village of Trivero in the foothills of the Alps. His company’s suits, made from super-fine wool, are now considered the world standard.
The contemporary Mr. Ermenegildo Zegna attributes the brand’s success to his company’s involvement in every part of the garment production, from yarn to textile to fitted suit. He compared the company’s presence today to a four-story building, the first floor of which was built by his great grandfather, who manufactured fabric; the second his grandfather, who began the garment business; the third his father, who turned it into a fashion brand, and the top floor himself, who took on the job of retailing the goods internationally.
The brand is headed by two of the founder’s great grandchildren, Ermenegildo and Paolo Zegna; they joined the company in 1989 and 1998, respectively. The company is now represented by more than 400 stores around the world, featuring a number of lines, including the formal “Sartoria,” the Travel Collection, the functional Zegna Sport, the young and fashionable “Z Zegna” and the couture line offering “Made-to-Measure,” as well as perfume and accessories. Customers love it: Zegna grossed 6.1 billion euros ($7.3 billion) in 2003 alone. The Asian market is particularly lucrative, taking up more than 20 percent of the brand’s global market share.
Ermenegildo Zegna is also one of the first import brands to break into the Korean luxury market, even before the Olympics Games in 1988. In 1997 the Zegna family took direct control over Ermenegildo Zegna Korea; the domestic company currently has 12 stores and seven duty-free stores nationwide.
The latest burst of expansion in Korea was the recent opening of its new store on the fashionable Cheongdam-dong avenue, which is lined with the likes of Louis Vuitton, Prada and Gucci. To attend the ribbon-cutting ceremony, the three top Italian executives ― Ermenegildo and Paolo Zegna and Domenico De Sole ― visited Korea. Ken Kress, the former CEO of Zegna Korea, flew in from Shanghai to join the man who succeeded him last September, Jason Hitchens, an Italian-born Brit.
“It is important that we visit a country at least twice a year to see the trends, and to understand the culture,” Mr. Ermenegildo Zegna said during the press conference inside the new store, whose wall were adorned with lattice details to reflect Korean design.
One of the main strategies for the current CEOs has been to enter markets early. “We were in China back in the ’80s,” Ermenegildo said. “Being early of course involves risks and losses, but if you’re there longer than anyone else, people recognize your brand first.” He knows the importance of being recognized: he was dressed to show off, in immaculate navy blue-and-white pinstripe suit matched with navy blue-and-white polka dot tie and blue-and-white chalkstripe shirt.
When asked how to make a family-run business successful, he said, “We need to retain talent in the family and also attract talent from outside.” This the company has done, with four outsiders in its executive operations since the addition of a new board member, Domenico De Sole. “Mr. De Sole constantly challenges us to become a global brand, and I’m a challenging person.”
The company announced its plans to follow through on its aggressive marketing and investment in retail operations, which it expects to grow by double-digits in the next three to five years. It also announced that the brand donated 2,000 pine trees to the Yangyang County in Gangwon province, which had suffered from a forest fire earlier this year.

by Ines Cho
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