One's known for pushing the boundaries of modern tailoring, while the other creates luxurious clothes borne from street culture. On the surface, they seemingly couldn't have come from more different worlds. Yet, Fear of God's Jerry Lorenzo and Ermenegildo Zegna's Alessandro Sartori coming together, as we learned in this exclusive interview, was a natural fit.
ESQ: How did this collaboration come about? Were you guys having drinks at a bar?
JERRY LORENZO: I don't drink anymore, but it was something like that. It was just a casual conversation and we were introduced by a friend. Obviously, Ale's track record and his career speak for themselves. And so, having a good idea of where he was creatively and not really thinking of a collaboration, but just kind of knowing that we have a similar perspective although we play in different worlds just based on the fabrics and materials that we play with. With Fear of God, we make all of our collections in downtown [Los Angeles] so we play mostly with denim, jersey, cotton and canvas fabrications and really focus on fabric weight, wash and treatments. Whereas Ale, on the other hand, is a master tailor who plays with different fabrics. But I think our perspectives on those different worlds were very similar.
ALESSANDRO SARTORI: A mutual friend of ours suggested that we should meet. We met in a diner for coffee actually, and realised we like each other. And here we are two years later. But it was really organic. It was not like a contract but a good meeting between people who respect each other and now, they love each other. This whole process was about that: mutual respect.
ESQ: Great. What was it when you were discussing a potential collaboration that made you think this is the perfect partner for you to collaborate with?
JERRY LORENZO: We just saw the gap in what was happening in fashion culturally, between that and the tailoring world. We both had a desire to provide a language and new solutions to fill that gap and so, have very similar perspectives on styling, proportions, and the way a man wants to feel and present himself. We had very similar starting points and the exact goal at the end of what this should feel like. We wanted to create kind of a less intimidating form of tailoring. You know, how do we take tailoring to a little bit more of an accessible place that a guy, who is used to wearing denim and hoodies, can see himself in tailoring and feel just as comfortable?
ESQ: Ale, your collections for Zegna have always kind of blended that sartorial heritage with a contemporary active quality. Having looked at the pictures of the collection, it really seems like it’s a continuation of that story that you’ve been doing for the house in recent years. Would you agree on that?
ALESSANDRO SARTORI: Actually, what we’re doing at Zegna is to work on a global lifestyle for our men, that goes from technical activewear—of course with tailoring elements—of Z Zegna to the modern tailoring of the couture collection. All that conversation is to bring Ermenegildo Zegna’s responsible vision with the highest level of class and quality. Here we didn’t really start from a specific brief, saying we want to do this or that. Of course, for what we did, it’s without forgetting quality and innovation. It was more of a blank page where Jerry and myself wanted to develop an idea that is completely new, that can also catch a different customer. It’s mostly for someone approaching the new world, who is intimidated by brands, and who likes an aesthetic that is chic, crafted and effortless.
ESQ: Yeah, for sure. Fear of God taps into California skate culture and streetwear, whereas Zegna has such rich heritage. Was there a consideration that your customer bases were too divergent? Did your customers already kind of intersect or is this a new collection for a future-looking customer that will intersect?
JERRY LORENZO: That's where the opportunity was. I think that kind of what made this feel even more right. I don't know that we necessarily share customers but we share the same mindset about clothing, which is most important. And I think a reason why some customers don't cross over to certain brands is just a lack of education or exposure. And so, in sharing the same mindset, it wasn't necessarily about bringing the two brands together; it was about proposing something new to the market. With the history of Alessandro in Zegna and Fear of God's short history in understanding culture and where it is today and where the market needs to go, it was really about creating something for a new customer with a new mindset where we felt this product was just missing in the market. And we felt the responsibility to put it out there.
ESQ: Jerry, I love what you said in the press release—"It's tailoring stitched with freedom"—which is so evocative because when we think of something stitched, we think of it being hemmed down. But you've used the word 'freedom'.
JERRY LORENZO: Fear of God has always tried to free our customers up. I think when a man wants to get dressed up and he wants his clothing to speak luxury, a lot of times he steps into a proportion or a certain fit that's not necessarily made for him. And I feel like for us, we want our guy to be able to speak luxury and also be comfortable. Luxury is comfortability. Luxury is not being so stuffy and so, in freeing our customer, it also frees those around him as well.
ESQ: Looking at the collection, there's the simplicity of a Henley as an undershirt with a suit as opposed to a restrictive shirt. It's new without being foreign. They're not pieces that men would be afraid of.
JERRY LORENZO: One of the things that we've always tried to do with Fear of God is to modernise American classics and hold on to those elements of familiarity but it still feels new. And I'm so happy that you took that away because that's so important in this collection. We're not trying to be new for the sake of being new. Or trying to reinvent the wheel; we're just adjusting it a little bit.
ESQ: Actually, a lot of the collection has an element of slow fashion attached to it because these pieces, although proposing different shapes and silhouettes, are not ones that would be 'out of fashion' in a few seasons.
ALESSANDRO SARTORI: Totally; you get it. In fact, we would like to think about the collection as one that you keep in your wardrobe for as long as you can.
JERRY LORENZO: I think we're also taking the stance of being responsible in this day and age where people are buying pieces and throwing them away the next day. We're putting all the love, attention and detail in the pieces. Giving you the best blazer that gives you the most versatility so that you can wear it with a hoodie or cummerbund. Or a Henley and rock up to a black-tie event. I think there's this idea of sustainability that can be just making the best products people want to keep. And so, we're going back to this way of thinking where you're purchasing garments and pieces that you're investing in that are going to get passed down to the next owner. Or to your boyfriend or girlfriend, or whoever it may be.
ESQ: Looking forward, what does success look like for you for this collaboration? Obviously, there's a quantifiable version of success, but talking more from a qualitative side, what does that look like?
JERRY LORENZO: Success kind of comes in all different forms, you know? I think it comes in influencing the way people dress, whether they're buying this collection or not. If we can change the way that people approach clothing and approach their wardrobe just through the messaging of this collection, that could be seen as a success. We like to think, before it hits the market, that it's been successful and kind of defining a new language for menswear. I think the impact on how it influences fashion is beyond the business and the sell-through of what we proposed. How we influence other brands and how people dress with their own garments also speaks to the success of this new design language.
ESQ: Ale, I saw that you posted on Instagram a picture of the sole of one of the shoes. Can you tell us about some of the shoes that you guys have designed for this collection?
ALESSANDRO SARTORI: Oh, it's the same approach, because if you follow a certain paradigm it is quite easy to imagine a classic derby and a suit or a double-breasted coat paired with an Oxford shoe. On the other hand, we want to offer a new approach. So when you see the double-breasted pinstripe with boat shoes, that's not actually the classic boat shoe but a modern version of that. It's more about the attitude, it's more about the approach—this chic slash effortless idea of the modern man and his wardrobe.
ESQ: Jerry, I noticed that you referenced Joshua 10:24 in the comment to Ale's post. If you had a verse for this collection, what would it be?
JERRY LORENZO: That verse is: 'Come here and put your feet on the necks of these kings.' (laughs) I love that verse because it's like the 'most gangster' verse in the Bible. And I feel like you know, it's a humble way of walking without fear and I think it took a lot of courage for us to come together and to propose this. And so, it was more of an encouraging thing from friend to friend to say, "Nothing to fear." Let's just put our foot on the necks of the industry and as humble—I can't say that I'm humble then I wouldn't be—but there is a level of competitiveness and drive of wanting to be the best at what you're doing, and we share that. We're putting everything that we have into this and trying to honour the gifts and talents that we've been given at the highest level. And so that verse kind of speaks to that.
The Fear of God exclusively for Ermenegildo Zegna collection is available from 25 September 2020 in select Ermenegildo Zegna boutiques, zegna.com, as well as select specialty stores internationally.