If there are two things you can always expect from an Ermenegildo Zegna XXX show is that firstly, artistic director Alessandro Sartori never shows at the same location twice. And secondly, his location choice and set design anchor his narrative of the collection for the season. For autumn/winter 2020, Sartori took over an old, abandoned warehouse and invited American artist Anne Patterson, to collaborate on a massive, immersive art installation that was the centrepiece of the show.
Titled ‘Art For Earth’, the suspended piece featured six year's worth of excess fabric from previous Ermenegildo Zegna XXX shows, repurposed (in line with the #UseTheExisting mindset of the fashion house) in an upcycling technique to create long strips of ribbons. The vision was to create an art piece that's not only visually engaging, but physically immersive as well—the very ethos for the Ermenegildo Zegna XXX autumn/winter 2020 show.
While the collection could have gone with the usual trope of translating Patterson's art into his designs, Sartori took a more poetic approach. Patterson has synesthesia, a neurological condition in which stimulation to one sensory pathway triggers involuntary stimulation to another sensory pathway; meaning, she might 'hear' colours and 'taste' sounds. The autumn/winter 2020 collection, invokes a similar sensation: through the visual data of the silhouettes and fabrications, it gives you a sense of ease and peace, all while transmuting tradition into modernity.
The core of the collection is tailoring, and that's where Sartori's brilliance in precision and knowledge of the sartorial arts shine. Firstly, the collection started out with a double-breasted tailored suit with a moiré pattern. But take a closer look and you’ll notice that the jacket was an amalgamation of a double and a single-breasted jacket, with the buttons much closer than its double counterpart.
There were also wrapped suits (inspired by kimono jackets) fastened with a knot at the side, languid three-piece tailoring with clean and fluid lines, as well as a strong collection of coats and blousons. The tailoring was familiar, yet fresh. Instead of destructive subversion—as is the go-to approach most designers take when presenting new propositions for tailoring—Sartori took elements of traditional tailoring, and subtly evolved them.
The precision of his work and understanding of how clothes should fall on the human body were seen in the wonderful draping of the jackets as well as trousers that were cut slightly loose in the thighs, before tapering down to a smooth curve towards the ankles. Much like Ermenegildo Zegna’s latest campaign #WhatMakesAMan, that sparked new conversations around masculinity, this collection was similar in that it's creating new conversations about the definition of what menswear and tailoring is today.
If the tailoring is a nod to the #WhatMakesAMan campaign, then the fabrication used in the collection underscores Sartori’s heart and focus on sustainability at Casa Zegna. The collection, using the #UseTheExisting technique, featured 50 percent fabrics that were upcycled; up from 20 percent last year. But even with having an eye on saving the world, there's an artistry to it. The fabrics, which looked tonal from afar, were actually made of a patch of different prints; the highlight being the moiré print.
In an interview, Sartori said, “Zero waste maybe impossible, but we have to aim for it. I think we can get to 10 percent, but we need to keep working." While zero waste in creation may never be fully in the cards, the true prowess of the Ermenegildo Zegna XXX autumn/winter 2020 collection lies in its ease of wear and modularity. The pieces were a functioning oxymoron, in the sense that they're very fashionable, yet timeless. The pieces from this latest collection would fit seamlessly into pieces from his past work, and quite possibly, his future. And as far as sustainability goes, there’s nothing more sustainable than clothes that never go out of style.