If you’ve known me outside of this blog for any amount of time, you’ll know that there’s a very special portion of my heart that is solely dedicated to my hatred of Crocs. I’ve thought about it long and hard (and had to defend my point of view from my coworkers who all seem obsessed with converting me) and the easiest way to explain it is that it’s an issue of form versus function.
I tend to analyze clothing along some form of a line graph, where X is the function of the piece and Y is the form or appearance. There’s the golden line in the middle, which allows a product to be both beautifully crafted and perfectly functional, and there are the shaded areas both above (beauty over functionality) and below (functionality over aesthetics). Crocs are almost purely a product of function. They were designed to be something comfy to slip on while at home, running around the beach or gardening as my mother insists on during the spring and summer months. They are not, have not and will never be, however, products that are especially beautiful.
On the other side of the spectrum there are those brands who prioritize the form over any aspect of functionality. Sure, they still “work” as shoes, but whether through their creation as designer pieces or through the name attached to them, they simply serve the function of tying an outfit together. Brands like Balenciaga, Yeezy and Versace could be tied into this category, one that treasures the form of the garment more than the day-to-day practicality of wearing it. Not to say that these shoes always look “good”, but rather that they are more tailored to the customer’s taste and aesthetic sense than the purpose of the garment (i.e. serving as footwear).
But this blog post isn’t about Versace, Yeezy or Balenciaga. It’s not about Crocs (thank the lord). It’s not even about shoes (though the brand I’m going to cover indeed contains footwear). I intend this post to be the first of three which focus on three fashion houses which lie in the grey area just above the golden line. This space is occupied by those brands whom I believe showcase the golden ratio of form v. function. These houses create modern art with a touch of practicality, allowing their wearers to experience the finest that Italian tailoring has to offer while still serving as usable and reliable pieces for their customers. They are showpieces through the subtle details and the level of care taken in their construction. They are beautiful through their simplicity, and that’s something I’ve always appreciated.
Starting from the northernmost house (Zegna), traveling down through central Italy (Brunello Cucinelli) and ending in Naples on the Southern coast (Isaia), I want these three posts to be focused on the upper part of the graph, where function isn’t so much tossed aside as it is given a back seat, and full focus is given to the form.
About The Brand:
Zegna wasn’t founded with the goal of creating clothing. That was for other fashion houses. It was started with the simple goal of creating beautiful fabrics. Begun in 1910 by Ermenegildo Zegna and his two brothers, they used their father’s wool looms and other minimal assets to start creating high quality woolen fabrics. Over time, the company grew and they began purchasing their wools directly from high-quality sources, often traveling to Mongolia, Australia and South Africa in order to secure the best product as well as quality machines from England to supplement the beginning machines that they inherited from their father. After their father passed on ownership of the fledgling fashion house in the mid 1960’s the sons continued their father’s business of wool exportation while also branching out into a made-to-measure service called Su Misura.
The modern era of Zegna was ushered into existence in the 1990’s when the founder’s namesake, Ermeneildo Zegna was handed control of the company, partnered with Paulo who serves as the company’s chairman. During this time they rotated the company’s focus into producing product exclusively for their clientele, something they’d been building since the launch of their made-to-measure service in the 1960’s. This is where we find Zegna now, dominating the menswear world, one of the largest companies by revenue and boasting some of the most dedicated clientele ever commanded by a fashion brand. With a multi-million dollar platform that includes hats, footwear, accessories, home goods and of course, clothing; Zegna find themselves poised to be all-consuming when it comes to modern, luxury menswear. But enough about that, let’s talk clothing.
I should also tell you that, unlike some of my other posts, I’ve decided to not include the links to the specific garments showcased below. Because I want to showcase how a brand like Zegna can be integrated into an existing wardrobe, I want to use this as more of a “stepping-off” point, and allow you to go explore and see what speaks to your heart.
Now I should offer this disclaimer: I was working on this post for about a year before I finally finished it. I offer this explanation because this outfit was created during the slightly warmer days of fall. The jacket and shoes wouldn’t really be the most appropriate for a blizzard with -10 degree wind chill, but I’m nothing if not committed to dying (freezing) on hills for no good reason. The jacket is Zegna as are the shoes (Oasi Cashmere collection and Triple Stitch, respectively), while the sweater is a showpiece from Etro. Because this outfit relies heavily on the integration of neutral tones, the hat (Palm Angels) and the jeans (Imogene + Willie) are simple and stripped-down. The perfect outfit for a snowy night of wine with friends at your favorite downtown jazz bar.
This next outfit is (also) based around a sweater, but I wanted to take it in a somewhat lighter direction. Instead of really relying on the lack of color to make a statement, this one is really founded around the idea of a statement color, and then allowing the rest of the outfit to envelop it.
The sweater from Etro is part of their newest drop and features a jacquard knit and some cleaver illustrations of classic Americana tattooing, while the pants are the featured Zegna piece. A classic five-pocket denim in a tapered-but-not-quite-skinny tapers the silhouette down towards the shoes, which are from a company in Mexico that I’ve been in love in since their first pair arrived on my doorstep. Gold and black accessories from Saint Laurent (sunglasses), Celine Homme (bracelet) and Hoorsenbuhs (ring) tie the whole outfit together in an understated demonstration of luxury.
The third outfit that I’ve built revolves heavily around Zegna’s newest collection. Called their “Outdoor Collection”, this series of garments takes heavy inspiration from vintage and modern ski fashions, while still remaining characteristically “Zegna”. This feels accurate, because as I’m (finally) finishing up this post, West Michigan is gripped in one of the nastiest blizzards I’ve seen in modern memory. It’s time to break out the knits.
Starting with a Techmerino wool sweater from Zegna, we build off that using a jacket from another one of my favorite outdoor brands, Amundsen Sports. While the colors are really similar to each other, I trust the white Italian wool lining on the inside of the jacket to offset and create some visual distinction between the two. And, because I’ve chosen to use heavy color on the top, the pants (jeans from Imogene + Willie) and shoes (Converse X DRKSHDW DRKSTAR Chuck 70’s) are both achromatic, meant to offset the outfit as a whole.
So, in conclusion, I’ve got no idea of what to say.
Zegna is a brand that speaks for itself in words much more subtle and luxurious than those I can conjure on this keyboard. Over 100 years of excellence, attention to detail and obsessive craftsmanship have bred a brand who have come to epitomize the definition of subtle luxury. I can only hope that at some point, in the future, I’m able to add pieces of that history to my own closet.