Bare feet in a stretch, a leap and a balletic twirl, necktie flying — this figure projected on the store's wall seems to know what he is doing as he leaps barefooted, around a shiny leather shoe.
That shoe is called the “Benjamin”. Add “Millepied” — French for “one thousand feet”, as the ballet dancer is fortuitously named — and you have the story of the re-furnished Ermenegildo Zegna store on London's Bond Street. It has added the bespoke shoe to its repertoire of natty suits, streamlined casual clothes and luxury sportswear.
“Come up and see,” said Gildo Zegna, the family company's CEO, as he raced me up to the top floor where the smell of fine leather rises from squishy couches — in subtle contrast to other areas dominated by tactile but hard and shiny surfaces in ivory ash wood, mahogany, oak, rosewood and steel.
Peter Marino, the store’s interior designer, was tasked with the make-over of this Zegna store that will celebrate three decades in London in 2017. But the real movement of change started with the return to the fold of Alessandro Sartori, the designer who had left the Italian company to work with Berluti but returned to Zegna earlier this year.
Gildo called him “our fantastic designer from Italy” to distinguish Sartori from the English shoemakers Gaziano & Girling whose handwork made in Kettering, Northamtonshire brought the UK into the picture. “I think it’s interesting in a global world to mix know-how — the best of ‘made in Italy’ with the best of ‘made in Britain’ to give a sign that we appreciate the localism,” said Gildo. “I think that in every place we are in the world, you have to retain your identity by trying to respect what the local craftsmanship can do, while Alessandro did a fantastic job in styling this new product.”
From the amount of floor space dedicated to footwear in the new store and the names attached to the bespoke products, this is a serious step forward.
“I started from shoes and wanted to reshape from the bottom up...” said Sartori. “This is not a shoe collection, but bespoke projects and objects. The idea is nine friends, including Benjamin Millepied, who cannot be here tonight because of personal reasons, whose nine stories are part of our new project to bring Zegna to this stage.”
Keeping it in the family, Gildo had another project for the store: a South African tapestry maker found by his sister Anna Zegna, whose aim was to bring together in the store “art and emotion”. Using five different types of suiting threads, artist William Kentridge wove a picture that includes the family history of Zegna and its development.
“Zegna is about tradition, but we like to make it linked with emotion as well,” said Gildo. “So we created this beautiful tapestry made in five or more hairs that we also utilise in our fabrics, taking from the art world some of the value and vision of Zegna's founder.”