At The Helm, we only make room in our store for the best. From product selection to brand partnerships, we do everything thoughtfully and with intention. That includes digging into brands' practices to determine whether or not they're ethical and sustainable.
Is any one brand perfect? Probably not. But Zegna is damn near it.
In June of 2019, The Helm team jetted off to Milan for fashion week to scout out the latest styles that would eventually make their way into our store. Between shows, we zipped to Zegna's facilities in Trivero, a small town in Biella, Italy, to see Zegna's sustainable practices in action.
We were greeted at the gates of Zegna's infamous wool mill, the Lanificio Zegna, where our tour began. The Lanificio Zegna is an Italian treasure and is well known to anyone in the fashion industry.
As we wandered through the facilities, we were enthralled by the ways the company's long, rich history intersected with innovative, modern technology. In one museum-like building, stacks of handwritten books detailed fabric formulas dating from the early 1900s. In the mill, the latest devices were turning out premium textiles soon to be used to create Zegna's menswear collections.
Steps away from the mill stands an impressive early century estate, once home to founder Ermenegildo Zegna, which is still used by the Zegna family today. Ermenegildo's office has remained untouched, acting as a constant reminder of the philosophy that drove his brand forward: inclusion, integrity, and well-being.
In 1910, when Ermenegildo built his wool mill atop a mountain in Trivero, he did so with his community in mind. He wanted to provide jobs to his fellow townspeople. By the end of the 1930s, the company had more than a thousand employees and had brought wealth to what was still a poor town.
Zegna has cultivated a culture that prioritizes caring for and respecting its people, which goes far beyond just paying a living wage. From building local facilities like schools and hospitals to supporting projects in social, cultural and scientific fields, Zegna has continuously shown its dedication to its community.
Ermenegildo also believed that the success of his brand had to be synonymous with the well-being of its surrounding natural environment.
Like any wool mill, the Lanificio Zegna relies on a significant amount of water to wash and process the fabrics they create. This can result in an extraordinary amount of wasted water, polluted with dyes and chemicals, unable to be used for any other purpose. Zegna, however, with an ingrained respect for the land, makes sure that the water coming out of its mill is cleaner than it was coming in.
Following our tour of the mill, we hopped back in the car and headed up a long and winding road into the heavily forested area around the mill. Over the years, Ermenegildo planted 500, 000 conifer trees in the mountains surrounding the Lanificio Zegna. The area, called the Oasi Zegna, spans 100 km2 from Trivero to the peaks of the Biella Alps. The Oasi Zegna is freely accessible and often used by local townspeople for recreational activities.
Ermenegildo set the standard of environmental responsibility that is still at Zegna's core today. As of late, Zegna launched #UseTheExisting, a project designed to create new fabrics with existing fabrics, with an overall goal of producing zero waste.
Currently run by the third generation of the Zegna family, with the fourth generation joining the ranks, Zegna continues to innovate and find ways to better the people and environment around them, all while creating kick-ass menswear. Inspired by Ermenegildo, no doubt.
By mid-afternoon, we had made it back to Milan with an even deeper appreciation for Zegna. So, when we sat among the industry's biggest titans to watch Zegna's fashion show, set in an abandoned steel factory, we were even more excited to get it into our store and onto our customers.