Ermenegildo “Gildo” Zegna, CEO of his family’s menswear brand, Ermenegildo Zegna, discussed the challenges of running a global business at the forefront of excellence within the fashion industry with Tania Bryer, CNBC broadcaster. The conversation covered the history of the family business, future industry trends and challenges, and lastly the charitable endeavours of the Zegna group.
The conversation took place at JW3, a cultural centre in North London, on November 23rd 2015 and Gildo noted that it won’t be business as usual after the IS attacks in Paris earlier this month.
Gildo was asked by Tania about the challenges facing his company. Each of us was a consumer, and our first instinct after the Paris atrocities was to stay at home, he said during this first conversation in the second season of Alan Howard / JW3 Speaker Series.
Milan-based Ermenegildo Zegna has more than 500 stores and 7,000 staff worldwide, generating 1.2 billion euros in revenue, and has diversified into selling its own fragrances and eyewear, and upholstering sports cars.
Finding customers would be the toughest problem facing retailers in 2016 said Zegna. The credit crunch was another difficult time.
“Two-thousand-and-eight was the toughest year,” he said, “I thought if I had too many priorities it would just become confusing, so I had one priority, preserve cash. It worked, because we came out of it 50 per cent up in cash.”
“I thought if I had too many priorities it would just become confusing, so I had one priority, preserve cash. It worked, because we came out of it 50 per cent up in cash.”
The company exports 85 per cent of its products, which Zegna considers essential to success, and he said it was important to nuture the brand in emerging markets, especially when people often bought goods abroad when travelling.
“It’s not so much how much business I do in China, but how I will do business with the Chinese,” he said,“One third of Chinese spending is at home, two-thirds of their spending is around the world; same with the Russians and Brazilians.”
“It’s not so much how much business I do in China, but how I will do business with the Chinese.”
The company’s focus on quality, from sourcing materials to customer service, “from sheep to store” as Zegna calls it, means other firms hire it to make menswear for them, including the Tom Ford-designed suits worn by Daniel Craig in the latest James Bond film, Spectre.
“Tom Ford is a good example of bringing some sex appeal to a man’s brand, which is not easy,” said Zegna.
“Tom Ford is a good example of bringing some sex appeal to a man’s brand, which is not easy.”