A WORLD OF WOOL
From sheep to shop, the standard for fine fabrics is set by Lanificio Zegna’s meticulous care and attention, writes Aussy Aportadera
Age-old traditions, craftsmanship, and technology combine to produce Lanificio Zegna's finest fabrics
L uxury stems from necessity, elevating even the humblest acts and objects. Such is the case of wool—the natural coat of common livestock: sheep, goat, llama, and alpaca, among them—and its transformation from one of the oldest fabrics of protection for man into the company of the finest cloths in the fashion and textile industry today.
From the vision of a young Ermenegildo Zegna, the quaint township of Tivero, Italy has become the centre of this trade. As early as the 1900s, the Italian fabric manufacturer had recognised the abundance of wool in his hometown, foreseeing the value of establishing the Lanificio Ermenegildo Zegna (Zegna Wool Mill) in the mountainous region near the city of Biella.
The tradition of wool in Tivero predates Lanificio Zegna’s heritage by six centuries. The men and women whose commitment and passion for the craft have passed their knowledge down from generation to generation are key to the mill’s intrinsic values. These include exacting care and fastidious attention to detail, so much so that they strive to correct every imperfection by hand; and every challenge set by the fibre has been overcome through rigorous research and inventive innovation through the years. Even as the mill itself has begun to source from outside of Tivero—as in the plenitude of wool in Australia where Ermenegildo Zegna had acquired a majority stake in the superfine wool farm Achill in New South Wales—the combination of avant-garde technology paired with centuries-old artisanal methods retains Lanificio Zegna’s signature craftsmanship.
Not only did the Tivero community practice the craft of wool, they were in close proximity to the rich soft water of the surrounding springs. At an altitude of 900 metres above sea level, the waters that run through Lanificio Zegna are the lightest in all of Italy, if not the entire Europe. This natural characteristic leaves the fabric unspoilt from
the processes of washing, combing, dyeing, and weaving; preserving a quality that many have tried to replicate in wool milling, but have been unable to attain.
Lanificio Zegna stands among the most sought-after suppliers of fine fabric in the world, bearing a grade of quality synonymous to its name. After all is said and done about the generosity of Mother Nature and the long-standing relationship of the mill with the environment, Zegna deserves the accolades of its hard work and demanding process.
The innovations of the Trofeo lightweight wool fabrics, the creaseresistant High Performance cloth, up to the revolutionary Cool Effect summer wools are demonstrations of the Zegna promise of visionary textile. Having already planned the colours, patterns, styles, and technical characteristics of the fabric by the creative team, Zegna is all the more guided in their selection of raw materials. Particular intent on fineness, quality, and strength come into play when wool is auctioned off to the mill. It is thereafter washed and combed to rid it of natural grease and vegetable impurities before dyeing—yet another step that is the result of carefully studied combinations. While the best technology is available to Lanificio Zegna, the most skilled and disciplined operators take charge of executing the rich, sophisticated Zegna tones through fibre dyeing, or mélange.
Craftsmanship from intimately handling the wool is not lost in this modern and gigantic endeavour. In fact, it is still the lifeblood of Zegna fabric manufacturing. From spinning and coning the different types of yarn to warping them into cloth, manual dexterity remains pivotal in the mill. Even as state-of-the-art looms aid the weaving process—especially for fine silks and yarn that are so delicate they are almost invisible to the naked eye— traditional machines and the artisans’ instinctive handling of the material are what make the final product: the highest quality wool and textiles.
Sealed with the signature of Ermenegildo Zegna, the heritage of the cloth bears the mark of unrivalled craftsmanship and luxury—one that pays tribute to the origins of its raw material, and alters the state of common wool into the finest of fabric.
FROM TOP Achill farm landscape; yarn from the Zegna wool mill
Sheep from the Achill Farm
Zegna blazer Wool warehouse
CLOCKWISE E Formulas for fibre blends; fine-tuning uning the details