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3 Creative Directors who are taking heritage brands into a new era

The new heads at Ermenegildo Zegna, Dunhill and Brioni have something new up their sleeves - literally.

HOMECOMING KING

CREATIVE DIRECTOR TO WATCH Alessandro Sartori, Ermenegildo Zegna

Alessandro Sartori, Creative Director, Ermenegildo Zegna

In one of the industry’s most widely acclaimed moves, Alessandro Sartori was appointed the artistic director at Ermenegildo Zegna last February, overseeing all the Zegna brands. It was a homecoming for the former artistic director at Berluti, who had previously spent eight years as designer at Zegna’s diffusion line Z Zegna. One of his biggest challenges is to create a cohesive identity among Zegna’s various labels, while at the same time expanding the brand’s appeal to a younger audience.

His first salvo was the Defining Moments campaign for Spring/Summer 2017 (SS17), featuring Hollywood heavyweight Robert De Niro in candid conversation with up-and-coming actor McCaul Lombardi. Sartori says this is a move from product-centric campaigns to focusing on the people who wear Zegna – a bid for the hearts and wallets of the millennials, perhaps.

For his inaugural AW17 collections for Ermenegildo Zegna and Z Zegna, Sartori shrewdly picked similar colour palettes of grey, off -whites, vicuna brown and soft pastels for both shows to create a unifying link. Selected pieces were also made available for order right after the shows to cater to the see-now-buy-now generation.

Sartori is also making astute moves to get more customers into the boutiques. The brand is establishing new signatures: Eagle-eyed fans will notice the buttonhole-inspired slit on the upper of Zegna’s new L’Asola moccasins – a nod to the brand’s sartorial expertise. The triple XXX stitch, first introduced by his predecessor Stefano Pilati, is now a distinguishing mark on the brand’s top-of-the-line items. Sartori’s strong aesthetics, combined with his commercial savvy, bode well for this storied house.

THE GAME CHANGER

CREATIVE DIRECTOR TO WATCH Mark Weston, Dunhill

  • Mark Weston, Creative Director, Dunhill
    Mark Weston, Creative Director, Dunhill

In a bid to introduce a fresh perspective to a brand steeped in history and tradition, Brit label Dunhill appointed Mark Weston as its new creative director in May. As the former senior vice-president of menswear at Burberry, he was among the team of designers spearheading the brand’s resurgence in recent times. His mission at Dunhill is to steer its creative direction towards a more contemporary aesthetic. “What I want for Dunhill is to be relevant. To make great clothing, for our times. To be British, but with an international outlook,” says Weston.

In his first showing for the brand for Spring/ Summer 2018, he gave a clear indication of his vision to update the brand’s aesthetic.

Contemporary revisions of classic pieces that garnered praise among the press included relaxed overcoats tailored to be worn more casually, reversible bombers featuring boating stripes on one side and synthetic khaki on the other, and knitted merino blousons for the (young) gentleman about town.

Together with smart sneakers, utilitarian yet stylish backpacks, and a general loosening up in styling that will appeal to this generation’s technopreneurs, it is safe to say that Weston has already succeeded in refreshing the look of the brand, while still upholding its ethos of quality craftsmanship.

THE DARK HORSE

CREATIVE DIRECTOR TO WATCH Nina-Maria Nitsche, Brioni

  • Brioni
    Brioni FW17 Accessories

Following a turbulent 14 months at the Italian house of Brioni where it hired, then quickly fired, social media darling Justin O’Shea as its creative director and then coasted for eight months without anyone at the helm, it appears that the dust is settling. In June, Brioni announced Nina-Maria Nitsche, a 23-year veteran at Maison Martin Margiela, as its new creative director.

Unlike O’Shea, who has a penchant for showiness – his only collection for Brioni featured statement pieces like mohair and croc-skin jackets that likely alienated the brand’s conservative clientele – Nitsche is notoriously media-shy, preferring to let her work speak for itself. She spent most of her career working closely with Margiela on the creative direction for Maison Martin Margiela, before taking over when he retired in 2009.

With Brioni, Nitsche says: “The House’s philosophy is based on a pioneering approach to menswear. My aim is to reinforce and invigorate this long-standing tradition.” It is clear the house is eager to reconnect with its understated yet ultra-luxe roots by appointing a creative director like Nitsche, who has proven design chops and a preference for remaining low-key.

CEO Fabrizio Malverdi says that he is “impressed by her creative approach, starting from a clearly defined concept and then transforming that into products that accurately resonate with the customer”.

He adds: “Her point of view will allow the brand’s core values to prosper, and yet inject a contemporary dialogue that will enable Brioni to evolve into the future.”