Chairman, CEO of Ermenegildo Zegna Group on company evolution, Saudi expansion plans

Chairman, CEO of Ermenegildo Zegna Group on company evolution, Saudi expansion plans
Zegna CEO Gildo Zegna (right) at the New York Stock Exchange in December 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 23 November 2022

Chairman, CEO of Ermenegildo Zegna Group on company evolution, Saudi expansion plans

Chairman, CEO of Ermenegildo Zegna Group on company evolution, Saudi expansion plans

DUBAI: It has been quite a year for family firm Ermenegildo Zegna Group. The Italian company last week announced it had signed an agreement to enter into a long-term license for Tom Ford fashion with the Estee Lauder Companies.

The news came as Estee Lauder revealed its acquisition of Tom Ford for $2.8 billion.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by ZEGNA (@zegnaofficial)

In December last year, the company went public on the New York Stock Exchange with a market cap of $2.4 billion. The luxury menswear label also significantly rebranded, adopting a singular name, Zegna, and a minimalist logo.

For the heritage brand, the future is as important as maintaining its Italian roots.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by ZEGNA (@zegnaofficial)

And the group’s chairman and chief executive officer, Gildo Zegna, told Arab News about Zegna’s expansion plans for Saudi Arabia.

With the Middle East and Africa reporting recent quarterly growth of 86.4 percent year-on-year, the region is considered a key market for the company.

Zegna said: “Our Dubai Mall store has become the benchmark for our business – 30 different nationalities shop there daily – it’s just unbelievable.”

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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With Dubai expecting 1 million visitors for the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, he anticipated it would be a profitable month.

And following a trip to Saudi Arabia, Zegna revealed that expansion plans for the Middle East were in full swing.

“It was a very exciting trip – I am amazed to see the resources the people are putting into the country – they want to invest in the future and modernity.

“The key is to be there with good partners which we have (Al-Malki Group), and I think we’re going to get great locations and get super busy,” he added.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by ZEGNA (@zegnaofficial)

In 2023, Saudi Arabia will see the opening of two Zegna boutiques, with several more in the pipeline within the next three to five years in yet more expansion for the 112-year-old label.

It was in 1910 when Ermenegildo Zegna established Lanificio Zegna, a wool mill making the finest textiles from natural fibers, in his hometown of Trivero, Italy.

The business grew into a luxury group including menswear, Thom Browne, acquired in 2018, and one-of-a-kind Made in Italy Luxury Textile Laboratory Platform.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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On Dec. 20 last year, Zegna rang the bell at the New York Stock Exchange, making history as the firm became the first Italian fashion brand to list there.

“Going public was probably the biggest and hardest decision of my life – I was putting the firm and the family at stake,” he said.

After much research and planning, the deal went ahead in agreement with Investindustrial Acquisition Corp., a special-purpose acquisition corporation sponsored by investment subsidiaries of Investindustrial VII L.P.

“I also think that it was the best way to prepare the company for the next generation – with the right governance and resources,” Zegna added.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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The founding family remains major shareholders with a 62 percent stake. And this year’s financial records would appear to confirm that Zenga’s move was the right one.

For the third quarter of this year, the group posted revenues of 357 million euros ($366 million), up 27.6 percent year-on-year, taking the revenues for the first nine months of 2022 to 1.09 billion euros.

Ahead of the initial public offering, the company rebranded itself by putting all three clothing lines under one umbrella.

Zegna said: “We decided to consolidate and have one brand – Zegna.”

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by ZEGNA (@zegnaofficial)

Brand equity had always been a strong focus at Zegna, and the latest move has created a more streamlined identity for the label, as did its new logo featuring a double-stripe signifier.

Although known for its made-to-measure suits using top-quality fabrics, the brand has branched out into creating luxury leisure wear under the creative direction of Italian fashion designer Alessandro Sartori.

“Before the coronavirus pandemic hit, I called in the executive committee to launch a new project that changed the perception of Zegna from tailoring to luxury leisure wear – that was the beginning of a new era and probably one of the smartest decisions I made,” Zegna added.

Through focusing on category management and creating iconic products such as the triple stitch sneaker and knitwear, Zegna has become more accessible to different age groups.

Referring to the overshirt and casual pants he was wearing for the Arab News interview, the company boss said it was the new Zegna norm and an approach that appealed to loyalists and younger generations.

“It’s about creating excellent products with a contemporary style in innovative fabrics,” he added.

With its made-to-measure service, everything from sneakers to knitwear, outerwear and suits can be customized in various materials and colors.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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This year, Zegna also unveiled an exclusive partnership with Real Madrid as its official travel wear partner – a move capitalizing on football’s growing relationship with high fashion. Dior, Moncler, and Off-White are some of the other big brands that have signed deals with major football clubs.

Footballers make influential brand ambassadors. In the Zegna campaign, the Real Madrid players are seen wearing the brand’s signature overshirt and triple stitch sneakers, highlighting its timeless yet contemporary approach to design.

Italian-made menswear aside, its textiles division remains a global benchmark for luxury fabrics and one of the company’s most significant growth drivers.

Third-quarter financial results showed textile revenues hitting $31 million, up 33.3 percent year-on-year. The firm continues to supply its textiles to some of the most premium high-end brands, including Gucci and Tom Ford.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by ZEGNA (@zegnaofficial)

With a vertically integrated supply chain, the brand has strong control over its suppliers. Last year, alongside Prada, it acquired an Italian cashmere producer.

Zegna said: “Filati Biagioli Modesto is a company I bought with Mr. Bertelli of Prada to make sure we have a good supply of traceable cashmere that is becoming very scarce. From sheep to shop, we are the only luxury company that is fully integrated.”

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by ZEGNA (@zegnaofficial)

Elsewhere, from its Achill farm in New South Wales, Australia comes the finest merino wool, shipped to the firm’s Italian mills and then onto shops.

He pointed out that through its supply chain, the company was stronger in terms of sustainability with traceable fiber.

Zegna noted that the firm had always attempted to give back to the environment, whether through its Oasi Zegna forest reserve in Italy, or upcycling.

“Our #UseTheExisting project utilizes leftovers of existing fibers and fabrics to minimize waste,” Zegna added.

Items from the eco-conscious collection can be purchased online and in store.


Gurinder Chadha says ‘Bend It Like Beckham’ was about racism at RSIFF 2022

Gurinder Chadha says ‘Bend It Like Beckham’ was about racism at RSIFF 2022
Updated 04 December 2022

Gurinder Chadha says ‘Bend It Like Beckham’ was about racism at RSIFF 2022

Gurinder Chadha says ‘Bend It Like Beckham’ was about racism at RSIFF 2022

JEDDAH: British Indian filmmaker Gurinder Chadha -- known largely for her commercial, feel-good films -- took part in an hour-long 'In Conversation' panel at the Red Sea International Film Festival in Jeddah, where she talked about one of her most popular early films, "Bend It Like Beckham."

The sports comedy film, released in 2002, starred Keira Knightley and Parminder Nagra in lead roles.

“It’s about racism,” the director said of the film. “It’s dressed up as a comedy but it’s actually about parents protecting children from racism. But if I had gone out and said this was a film about racism, it would have never got financed, never!”

She also bemoaned the fact that there aren't more successful  British Indian filmmakers in the industry. 

When asked if she suffered from tokenism in the U.K. as a British Indian director, Chadha said: “I think the opposite because I’ve been the only one for many years. I think it’s a shameful statistic and people are trying to change that. I was the first Indian woman to make a feature in Britain [1994’s ‘Bhaji on the Beach’] and, until this day, there are only one or two [British-Indian directors in Britain]. I’m a reminder of the fact that things need to change.”

Speaking about the experience of visiting Saudi Arabia, she said: “In Britain, we have a different view of what Saudi Arabia is. Everything here is geared towards families, everything is about family life and kids, and you don’t get those impressions in Britain.

“It’s a country that’s changing. For some people, it’s changing too fast, and for some people, it’s not changing enough. I’m really interested in those discussions right now. The work that I do is very much focused on the fact that people will change,” continued the filmmaker. “It’s interesting to see those discussions in Saudi cinema, and to see how people negotiate change. I hope it’s not seen as a negative thing.”


US director Oliver Stone explores Saudi film scene at Red Sea International Film Festival  

US director Oliver Stone explores Saudi film scene at Red Sea International Film Festival  
Updated 03 December 2022

US director Oliver Stone explores Saudi film scene at Red Sea International Film Festival  

US director Oliver Stone explores Saudi film scene at Red Sea International Film Festival  

JEDDAH: Lauded US director Oliver Stone took part in a roundtable discussion at the ongoing Red Sea International Film Festival in Saudi Arabia on Saturday.  

When asked by Arab News if he would consider filming in Saudi Arabia, he said: “My time is limited, I’m 76 years old. What do you want me to do, come down here and learn a whole different culture? No, I don’t think that’s possible. I have one project in mind, which I can’t tell you because nobody knows about it and if I can get that done, I would be very happy.” 

 

 

“The Middle East has tremendous potential, economically too. People are putting money here, no question,” he added.  

When commenting on film’s ability to act as a cultural bridge, he said “I imagine cinema has played a huge role, but on the other hand cinema is also very violent and revenge-motivated — those stories always seem to work — so you could say that’s not a good example for the world… so it’s double-edged, it depends on the movie.” 

 

 

Stone’s latest documentary “Nuclear” is screening at the festival on Sunday.  

Prior to his private discussion, the “Scarface” director and RSIFF jury president took to the stage at the opening ceremony of the festival on Thursday to share his views on Saudi Arabia.  

Stone said the country is “much misunderstood in the present world – people who have judged too harshly should come and visit to see for themselves.” He also noted “changes” and “reforms” taking place in the Kingdom, which he said make it worth a visit.  

Commenting on the 15-strong competition slate, the Oscar-winning director said: “These films stick to very basic ideas of survival, migration, suffering. There’s a real spirit here, which is growing,” according to Variety.  

The event will continue until Dec. 10 under the slogan “Film is Everything.”  

The festival is set to showcase 131 feature films and shorts from 61 countries, in 41 languages, made by established and emerging talents. Seven feature films and 24 shorts from Saudi Arabia will also be shown. 


Review: Red Sea title ‘Shimoni’ is both devastating and meaningful  

Review: Red Sea title ‘Shimoni’ is both devastating and meaningful  
Updated 03 December 2022

Review: Red Sea title ‘Shimoni’ is both devastating and meaningful  

Review: Red Sea title ‘Shimoni’ is both devastating and meaningful  

JEDDAH: “Shimoni (The Pit)” — part of the ongoing Red Sea International Film Festival — was written and directed with a lot of feeling by Kenya’s Angela Wamai. It is a devastating look at what happens when a community fails to care for a fallen man. Wamai's ability to tell a story through long silences add to the tension, aided by some wonderfully neat editing. The use of light and shade to take us through the moods of the moment to create a fantastic feeling, and our hearts go out to Geoffrey (Justin Mirichii), who suffers through a childhood trauma and a punishingly long jail term.  

Wamai's writing presents an authentic picture of this deeply religious churchgoing village, where the pastor's word is the law. (Supplied)

Released from prison seven years after being charged with homicide, Geoffrey shudders when he is asked to live in the village where he grew up and where horrifying memories torment him. Once a brilliant English teacher, the former convict is uneasy when he is asked to do farm work. His boss is a talkative woman, Martha (Muthoni Gathecha), who is displeased with him.  

The village priest has his own agenda — he wants Geoffrey to repent for his sins and gives the fallen man a sermon every night. But when the pastor insists that the young man meet with the victim's family, the uneasiness is excruciating.   

What ultimately proves to be a tipping point is when village gossip becomes unbearable for him. Beatrice (Vivian Wambui), just about to get out of her teen years, is another source of irritation for him, when her curiosity pushes her to play with fire. 

Wamai's writing presents an authentic picture of this deeply religious churchgoing village, where the pastor's word is the law. The only person who appears outside this circle is Martha, who loves playing the sleuth. Interestingly, the script offers a lovely view of the relationship between her and Geoffrey — their meetings are both tense and witty and the movie, set in the Kenyan countryside, goes to underline the trauma of an individual when he has had a run in with the law.  


Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Jessica Alba among chic guests at RSIFF 2022- Women in Cinema gala  

Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Jessica Alba among chic guests at RSIFF 2022- Women in Cinema gala  
Updated 03 December 2022

Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Jessica Alba among chic guests at RSIFF 2022- Women in Cinema gala  

Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Jessica Alba among chic guests at RSIFF 2022- Women in Cinema gala  

JEDDAH: International movie and TV star Priyanka Chopra Jonas made a glittering entrance at the Women in Cinema gala at the Red Sea International Film Festival in Jeddah on Friday night. Other glamorous guests included the likes of Jessica Alba, Frieda Pinto, Tara Emad, Lucy Hale, Sharon Stone, Gurinder Chadha, Salma Abu Deif, Sonam Kapoor Ahuja and more. 

“Quantico” star Chopra Jonas looked resplendent in a lavish gold gown by Lebanese designer Nicolas Jebran. Hollywood actress Alba — famously seen in movies like “Sin City” and “Fantastic Four” — also supported Middle East labels by opting for an elegant, embellished gown from Lebanese couturier Elie Saab. 

Meanwhile, on the opening night of the film festival, stars took to the red carpet and shone a light on Saudi designers. While stars like Sharon Stone, Shah Rukh Khan, Oliver Stone, Priyanka Chopra Jonas and many more graced the red carpet in striking fashion looks, Saudi designers also had their moment to shine at the event. 

Brazilian supermodel Alessandra Ambrosio dazzled in a blue jumpsuit from Jeddah-based designer Yousef Akbar. She completed the look with a gold bangle and matching stud earrings. The model has often sported creations from Arab designers. Last month, she wore a lime gown by Lebanese couturier Zuhair Murad to a holiday brunch in Mexico.  

Jomana Al-Rashed, the first Saudi woman to be appointed CEO of the Saudi Research and Media Group, was spotted posing alongside Hollywood star Sharon Stone, wearing Saudi label Loodyana. 

British actress Jacqui Ainsley, known for her role in the 2017 film “King Arthur: legend of the Sword,” took to the red carpet wearing US-based label Dazluq, founded by Saudi designer Salma Zahran. Ashley is married to British filmmaker Guy Ritchie, who was also in attendance. 

Julianne Hough at the Women in Cinema gala dinner. (Getty Images)

Honayda Serafi, founder of the Saudi label Honayda, represented her own brand in a striking green ensemble. “Delighted to be attending the opening ceremony of the second edition of the Red Sea Film Festival in Jeddah, surrounded by successful talents from around the world and celebrating Arab artists. A grand event bridging cultures from West to East, bursting (with) creativity and beauty,” she posted on Instagram, along with shots of her outfit. 

Lebanese influencer Nathalie Fanj was seen wearing an ethereal mermaid black gown from designer Tima Abed. She completed the look with dangling, heart-shaped earrings from Chopard. 


British filmmaker Guy Ritchie envisions bright future for Saudi film industry

British filmmaker Guy Ritchie envisions bright future for Saudi film industry
Updated 03 December 2022

British filmmaker Guy Ritchie envisions bright future for Saudi film industry

British filmmaker Guy Ritchie envisions bright future for Saudi film industry

RIYADH: British filmmaker Guy Ritchie, most famous for his hit gangster films, the "Sherlock Holmes" franchise and his live-action "Aladdin" adaptation, said that Saudi Arabia is ripe for building a successful film industry, at the Red Sea International Film Festival. 

The director was speaking to Arab News on day two of the film festival in Jeddah.

Guy Ritchie at the photocall at the Red Sea International Film Festival on Friday. (Getty Images)

"What's interesting about (Saudi Arabia) is that there's such an explosion of enthusiasm. It's young and it's creative. And there's a high desire to express creativity. That makes it very interesting. So it's trying to couple the inexperience with the enthusiasm, because you have the enthusiasm and the means. And now you've just got to develop some form of experience and sub-structure," said Ritchie about the developing and nascent film industry in Saudi Arabia.

"I don't like making movies in the UK anyway. So I'd rather make movies outside of the UK. We worked in Jordan for 'Aladdin.' And that worked very well for us. We were in Spain for the last film and in Turkey for the film before that. There's no need to get out of the UK but I'd much rather work in in new and exciting environments. And for that really you just need a sub-structure in order to facilitate the ability of making movies. And I'm sure that will happen," added the filmmaker, who is attending the film festival along with his actress-wife Jacqui Ainsley.

Ritchie with his wife Jacqui Ainsley at the opening gala of the Red Sea International Film Festival on Thursday. (Getty Images)

In a separate 'In Conversation' segment on Friday, Ritchie address this topic again and said, "I think I'm very interested in this part of the world. And I think creativity should find its way into this part of the world. That's why I'm here. Really, what we're after is a fusion and the integration of cultural collaboration."

Ritchie went on to explain that for a healthy film industry to be built, incentives and subsidies for film productions are the way to go. "I can't shoot in the UK anymore because it's too busy to shoot there. That's how busy it is. And they've been able to do that because of incentives. So once you have incentives, then the other thing you need is to make a few movies here in Saudi Arabia. So other filmmakers look at the filmmakers that have gone before and then they just trust that," said Ritchie. 

Ritchie first made headlines and found international acclaim with the 1998 British black comedy crime film "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels," which he wrote and directed. In an In Conversation panel at the Red Sea International Film Festival on Friday, Ritchie talked about how the film almost didn't get made. 

"This was the hardest film. I mean, it's not coal mining. So you've got relativize it within the world of how hard it is to scratch a living. But the film fell down a 1000 times before it was resurrected. And even when it came to a redistribution, you know, it was out and in and then it was out. And then it came down to, suddenly, there was one particular guy called Chris Evans, in the UK, who saw it and he loved it. And at the time, his show was the most watched show in the UK. And he pulled me on for the next week. That's really what made it a hit. He made a fuss about it, then everyone else would come," said Ritchie.