Airiness and light. These are the sartorial priorities when it comes to selecting the kind of menswear that's suitable for an Australian summer. It's also the focus of the latest collection to hit Australian stores by Italian menswear label Ermenegildo Zegna.
The line was first unveiled in Milan, against the striking backdrop of the Oscar Niemeyer-designed Palazzo Mondadori, timed to catch the liquid gold of the afternoon Lombard sun as it seeped down the building's façade. This setting of industrial enterprise, resonating with the ambient heat of a Milanese summer, created the perfect juxtaposition for a wardrobe designed for the contemporary man whose playground is the concrete landscape of a modern city.
Under the banner "Weightlessness", Zegna's Spring Summer '19 Couture XXX range is just that: an attempt to achieve lightness via the manipulation of garments through fit, graphics and experimentation of fabrics; the latter a personal passion of Zegna's Artistic Director Alessandro Sartori.
Thematically, the collection takes its cue from a sport motif. For the most part, this is achieved via subtle nuances or enhancements to each piece some statements are far more obvious. Such as a jacket and trouser printed with the figure of a tennis player (timed as it is to catch the announcement of Zegna's latest ambassador, young star Alexander Zverev).
Suede mesh tops, tailored, cuffed joggers teamed with bomber jackets, knitted shirts and garment-dyed kind-of-denim, blazers with trackpants that could be turned into shorts, leather visors, chunky sneakers and hybrid footwear – the collection is as much defined by its of-the-moment-contemporariness as it is by its glaring omission of any orthodox concept of a suit.
Delivered in muted tones of berry, yellows, and greens, and crafted with architectural precision tempered by oversized, looser fits – the timing of the line's arrival couldn't have been more serendipitous hot on the heels of our own questioning of the suit's relevance during increasingly hotter summers.
An idea of a suit
Australian men have become conditioned to believing that the suit looks a particular way – the jacket thus, the trousers like this, and it must include shirt and tie. However, the reality is becoming far more fluid as men embrace a broader idea of what menswear has to offer.
What was once the cornerstone of male fashion has evolved, as has the modern man, into something more hybrid and mutable. The solution, according to Zegna, was to redefine the day to day wardrobe into something that operates in multiple scenarios.
The details are there – in the form of a soft-structured jacket or blazer in degrade checks in colourscapes of yellow and grey or berry reds and pink. The trousers, too, in the same fabric and hues all made using a fascinatingly complex blanket-inspired weaving process.
Tweaked by small details inspired by athleisure's grip on fashion's landscape, Zegna's spring summer offering to menswear is to something that sits in both luxury and leisure's realms. A sharp reminder that these two concepts need not be mutually exclusive.
Warp and weft
Sustainable materials are given centre stage in Sartori's world too – merino wool, linen, cotton, century cashmere with waterproof membranes and textured Tussah silk produced by the Lanificio Zegna using yarns obtained from natural sources. It's clear that comfort and durability lie at the core of the collection. But there's scope for play as well, as is befitting for a line of clothes that come under the couture banner.
This message was carried further with the styling of the show, done by Sartori himself, emphasised by the deliberate mixing of patterns and fabrics. What could have been a singular colourway or pattern with jacket and trouser was instead broken down and used separately – the blazer with an opposing check-pattern trouser or even cargo pant – deliberately highlighting the nature of each piece while giving the gents at large a lesson on sartorial fusion through fission.
Obviously, there are no plans for Zegna's more traditional suiting is still going to a core part of the brand's identity. But what Sartori has done with the Couture XXX line is expand on the visual semantics and make room for a more progressive version of what tailoring could be. Which at this point in time meshes sport and luxury in a way that embodies both, is beholden to neither.
So for men who are struggling within the confines of the standard suit's silhouette, but have the need for a wardrobe that fits the kind of schedule that takes you from office to evening, the answer is here.
Check out the gallery above to see the full collection of Zegna's Spring Summer '19 Couture XXX.
The writer travelled to Milan as a guest of Zegna.