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How these 3 new designers from fashion giants will shake up menswear

Three storied fashion houses welcome a new creative force at the forefront of their brand. Here's how they're set to make an impact in the menswear scene.

ERMENEGILDO ZEGNA

DESIGNER Alessandro Sartori

Alessandro Sartori

There couldn’t be a better fit for the world’s largest luxury menswear label Ermenegildo Zegna, than Alessandro Sartori. Sartori exercised his vision of luxury at ZZegna for over a decade, went to Berluti, and now he’s back as the artistic director of the Ermenegildo Zegna group. His task was to give a more relaxed take on the spiffy suit following the trend of casual suiting. Fact is, most men are not required to wear a strictly tailored suit five times a week. Given that Zegna is ultimately a suiting brand and Sartori is a tailoring geek – how do they measure up?

Perfectly, going by Sartori’s collection for Fall/Winter. Since the brand’s inception in 1910, Zegna – which started out as a wool mill-has always placed great emphasis on fabric quality. With that in mind and the most luxurious fabrics at his disposal, Sartori embarked on a creative direction that appeals to a new generation of high-flyers without sacrificing the house’s strict tailoring codes. The outcome? Sporty tailoring with luxe fabrics including exquisite calf leather trench coats, jacquard slim-fit trousers, structured bombers in wool alpaca and leather panelled herringbone suits. Says Gildo Zegna, Ermenegildo Zegna’s chief executive officer of Sartori’s appointment: “He is now more mature and more intense,” and that it was the right time to have him back in the company. He adds that “fashion is about timing”. This timing is just right.

(RELATED: Returning director Alessandro Sartori outlines his new vision for Ermenegildo Zegna.)

BERLUTI

DESIGNER Haider Ackermann

Haider Ackermann

PHOTO Mark Abrahams

In 2016, Berluti tapped Paris-based Colombian designer Haider Ackermann as its creative director for its ready-to-wear collection. Ackermann is no stranger in the fashion world. He started his eponymous womenswear label in 2013 and has since garnered a cult following from the fashion cognoscenti to celebrity fans (and now friend) like Tilda Swinton. Ackermann is in his element when it comes to merging romance and sexuality with proportion and great tailoring -a perfect union of intellectual and whimsical.

His new role in Berluti is a bold leap for a brand that was founded in 1895 by Alessandro Berluti, a shoemaker who started making footwear from one piece of leather. The label only started offering ready-to-wear men’s clothes in 2012 when LVMH – under Antoine Arnault -acquired the brand. It was then helmed by Alessandro Sartori (now artistic director of Ermenegildo Zegna), who infused Berluti’s ready-to-wear with artisanal luxury coupled with technical savoir faire, focusing largely on traditional menswear silhouettes.

Enter Ackermann’s bohemian led artistry and the stage is set for a look designed to capture a younger and edgier clientele, as Arnault envisions. But without alienating the loyal customers built up over the years.

Ackermann may just be the right guy for the job, fiercely loyal to the house’s codes and putting great store on finding the right balance between the past and the present. The proof is in his debut collection for the fall/winter season. The clothes had a desirability and sexiness a lot of the menswear shows lacked. The Ackermann code was undeniable from the crocodile boots (a welcome though radical addition to Berluti’s classic Oxfords) to the velvet suitings and cashmere separates in jewel tones. And, did we mention the season’s new accessory is a fine-grain leather guitar case?

CALVIN KLEIN

DESIGNER Raf Simons

Raf Simons Calvin Klein

Calvin Klein Fall/Winter 2017/18

As the chief creative officer of Calvin Klein, Raf Simons has a lot on his plate but it’s no task he can’t handle. He’s already had a promising start with his fall/winter collection with interesting interpretations of Americana from Wall Street suiting to metal-tipped cowboy boots and top-to-toe denim.

Simons is arguably one of the most influential designers of the 21st century. But, way back when he attended his first fashion show, it was fellow Belgian Martin Margiela who influenced him as a designer. It was just at that Maison Martin Margiela show that he fully understood fashion to be conceptual, intellectual, and linked to a wave of emotions.

According to Simons, the Maison Martin Margiela show was so beautiful, half of the audience cried. It was a feeling of raw emotion that would follow Simons through his career. When he took his last bow at Jil Sander, he was reduced to tears, and so was his audience. At Dior, where he sat as creative director for three-and-a-half years, he did the same during the documentary “Dior and I”, yet his followers empathised.

The emotional connection he shares with his audience could well come from his intense personal passion that he pours into his craft and his shows.

He looks set to repeat his success at Calvin Klein – being the only designer after Calvin Klein himself, to receive the CFDA award for both menswear and womenswear. When he took over the reins at this iconic American house, Simons shared that his role at Calvin Klein was to inspire, as America was a very inspiring place for him. Given his track record, he will not disappoint.

(RELATED: 3 design and fashion figureheads pick out brands you should watch.)

Story first appeared on The Business Times.