“Men have been the core of our business since 1910,” claimed Ermenegildo Zegna. For more than a century, Zegna has been the point of reference for men’s classic elegance. Along with it, the brand has spent decades building the image of a true gentleman, as its ideal customer. But times have changed. Today, modern masculinity is not that easy to label. It just does not suffice to synthesize this definition (a general, albeit, endearing and always fascinating) of a gentleman. Being a man today can be tough, which is why classical brands want to look deeper inside their identities and values in order to respond to the new and multifaceted definition of what it means to be a man.
“What makes a man today? What does manhood mean in the world we are living in?” Let the brainstorming begin.
In popular society, the topic has been rendered much more interesting, especially when the notion originates from a vanguard menswear brand like Zegna. The Fall/Winter 2019 collection campaign was revealed during New York Fashion Week, at an intimate event that hosted Oscar-winning actor and brand testimonial Mahershala Ali (star of Moonlight, Green Book). Alessandro Sartori, creative director of Ermenegildo Zegna, was by his side and discussed the issues that inspired him and his team to investigate the meaning of masculinity in an ever-evolving society that never stops questioning rules and seemingly established concepts.
“What does it mean to be a man today? There is not a single answer; rather, there are many,” Sartori said, explaining what lies behind the #whatmakesaman tease. “The world we live in is fluid and constantly evolving. The same goes for the concept of masculinity. With this campaign, we wanted to express the values in which we believe, because in such a complex and globalized world we think it is also an act of courage deciding to open up about the fundamental values of the company. We do not want to redefine, but to open a discussion on the concept of masculinity as a state of mind. That takes on different meanings and includes many features: courtesy, kindness, patience, vulnerability, wisdom, eccentricity. In addition, dignity and openness to accept and embrace the contradictions of life, to evolve day by day, remaining honest to the self, constantly changing their perspective and attitudes. The campaign is intended to be a platform for discussion, recognizing that it takes courage to express a new type of masculinity, perhaps different from the idealized versions that have existed for so long.”
Idealized versions attributable to a stereotyped model of man include: successful, strong, straight. But nowadays the concept of gender and inclusivity remain delicate and constantly in flux. Men of today do not need to demonstrate a proverbial sense of masculine strength anymore. Many feel dignified expressing kindness and their feelings through dialogue. In a few words, we could say that masculinity today is a state of mind: men embrace their own views about it and care less about what it means to go against the grain and the “classic” concepts of yesteryear.
Zegna’s aim is not to impose a vision – that would be contradictory, inconsistent – rather to leave the discussion open-ended. “Our values are solid at the core, but they keep evolving with time,” Ermenegildo explained.
For the modern man, evolving with the times also means more than just caring about themselves and gender-related issues, but also expanding their sensibility and consciousness to grasp the environment and the society around them.
Love, failure, struggle, risk, dreams, playfulness, movement, freedom: these are the new characteristics that make the man of today, according to Zegna. “But it is always possible to add new traits,” Sartori said, stressing the importance of exploring topics outside of the company’s realm. “Men are complex and constantly evolving,” Sartori added.
“The ultimate goal is to open a door, let ideas unravel, accept the form they will take. Openness and the will to accept change as the force that shapes life, makes the man. The final message, after all, is acceptance and, ultimately, self-acceptance. Of kindness as the supreme form of strength.”
Zegna commitment is even more important in a fashion universe where the attention to the LGBTQ community’s cause is ever ascending. It’s impossible to forget Christopher Bayley’s farewell show for Burberry, a true statement in favor of the community led by model Cara Delevingne.
Other forms of support have been shown by the top ten’s names in the industry, such as Karl Lagerfeld and Nicolas Ghesquière. Louis Vuitton’s artistic director discovered transgender model Teddy Quinlivan who had been walking the runways for about two years before revealing her status. After the announcement, she was the first transgender model to walk for Chanel and to be chosen as the house beauty ambassador.
Several among the top sportswear brands have joined the cause, too, this year, realizing capsule collections of shoes inspired by the LGBT flag: Adidas, Under Armour, New Balance, and Nike, to name a few.
Later last Summer, Gucci was at the top of a list of first luxury brands signing a petition to the American Court of Justice, in order to ask for an improvement of laws and general working conditions for homosexuals in job environments. A mainstream to be continued.
ZEGNA explores #WHATMAKESAMAN