As a family business, Ermenegildo Zegna goes back to the second half of the 19th century. Angelo Zegna a watchmaker by trade, started weaving wool from four looms. Of his ten children it was the last, Ermenegildo born in 1892, who took over what was to become one of Italy’s best known and most dynamic family businesses.
It was the young entrepreneur; Ermenegildo aged 18 that founded the Lanificio Zegna (wool mill) in 1910, in Trivero, in the Alpine foothills near Biella. Ermenegildo began to produce fabrics using four looms. In his own words, these fabrics had to be “the most beautiful in the world.” Today, Zegna fabrics are still one of Italy’s most acclaimed exports, identified internationally by a red seal.
Ermenegildo had an international vision, ahead of his time, to source the best quality natural fibres, directly from their country of origin innovation in product and in the production process and promotion of the brand. This vision laid the foundations for a fully vertically integrated company and one of Italy’s most acclaimed family driven enterprises.
Before long, Ermenegildo’s strategies proved a success. His international vision led to exportation of fabrics to as far a field as America in 1938, and by 1945 Zegna fabrics were sold in over 40 countries.
Ermenegildo’s brilliant business mind was not limited to his particular industrial field. He understood that the quality he sought for his products couldn’t be separated from a positive relationship with the local territory and the community. He understood that the beauty of the natural environment and people’s well being – and not just that of his own employees – were indispensable for a company aspiring to long term success.
In 1932, Trivero already had a meeting hall, a library, a gym , a cinema/theatre and a public swimming pool. In the space of a few years, he built a medical centre and a nursery school.
In the meantime, he was dedicating himself to the local environment and landscape, planting thousands of trees and building the “Panoramica Zegna” road a 14 km route linking Trivero and Bielmonte, a tourist resort 1,500 meters above sea level.
Angelo Zegna, current Honorary Chairman of the Group, describes his father’s achievements as: “I see four forces acting throughout my father’s life. First of all, he was born in the right environment to develop his business aptitudes. There were various small firms competing in a small area. Secondly, he was always determined to get the better of his British rivals, by offering creative Italian fabrics with unbeatable quality. The third force was an exceptionally open mind, especially regarding the social welfare of the territory and redistribution of value to workers. Lastly, there was his fundamentally important relationship with nature, his awareness that natural resources are limited and that we must protect them. He was an ecologist long before the term even existed!”