The road to change begins with the first step. With its pedigree as one of the world’s top luxury brands, Ermenegildo Zegna is doing just that. In their new Fall/Winter 2019 campaign, the brand is taking a stand to eliminate masculine stereotypes and welcome vulnerable traits such as love and self-expression.
“The debate on masculinity is very heartfelt and has a huge impact on society,” says Gildo Zegna, CEO of Ermenegildo Zegna, in an exclusive email interview with Weekend. “To be able to do this at a moment when society is looking at masculinity in many different ways, we need to not only be part of the conversation, but lead it.”
The start of the #Metoo movement last year sparked an important conversation about gender equality. But it’s not just about listening to and empowering women, but about dealing with the issues of toxic masculinity. Mr Zegna agrees. “I firmly believe that the static, traditional notion of masculinity no longer works, if it ever did to begin with.” He also believes that men these days are more emotionally available, which is a huge leap from the days when boys were told not to cry or to “man up” every time they faced grief. “I think they are coming to terms with their inner weaknesses as well as their strengths,” he continues.
As a brand, Zegna is not just progressive with their designs, but ideas as well. With their latest #whatmakesaman Fall/Winter 2019 campaign, the 110-year-old brand wants to actively engage a conversation about what makes a man today. “It isn’t just a brand campaign,” says Mr Zegna. He believes that this is an opportunity for the brand to rethink its strategy, values and interaction especially with an impressionable younger audience.
After years of succumbing to advertising promoting sexism by glorifying the alpha male, many brands like Zegna have finally realised that they need to step up and assert the power they own more wisely. Mr Zegna explains, “With this campaign we wanted to foster a conversation around the meaning of modern masculinity… we also want to broaden the dialogue with the new generations. Millennials and Gen Z both understand that menswear — and clothes in general — is no longer about just looks, but about values and lifestyle.”
With this new direction in place, Zegna tapped two-time Oscar winner Mahershala Ali and Asian celebrity Nicholas Tse to front its campaign. As Mr Zegna puts it, “Both men reflect a modern idea of masculinity: positive, authentic, and inclusive.” In fact all these traits that shape the new generation of masculinity is also aptly illustrated in the brand’s print advertising. A far cry from its previous campaigns, this season’s portraits are more candid and playful especially with the use of handwritten typography. The scribbles give it a personal, diary-like feel, which makes the message feel more relatable.
While nothing can change overnight and stereotypes will continue to exist, brands like Zegna are showing that they can use their influence to shape social conversations, proving that fashion isn’t just about mindless consumption, but a force for good as well.
This article was originally published in The Business Times.