This evening, Ermenegildo Zegna Parfums and Whitewall Magazine will celebrate the launch of Essenze, a new collection of fragrances, at a gathering in New York. The event coincides with the launch of our winter 2013 Luxury Issue featuring a conversation between Ermenegildo Zegna, CEO of Zegna, and Fabrizio Freda, CEO of Estée Lauder. Below is an excerpt from the article.
Ermenegildo Zegna, one of the titans of the menswear world, has built a luxury empire that represents all that is fine, tailored, and special in men’s fashion today. As he looks forward to the future, his company is expanding into emerging markets and launching new fragrances that are helping to define and cement the brand’s identity on a global scale. He recently sat down to talk with his friend and partner in developing fragrances, Fabrizio Freda, the CEO of Estée Lauder, at the cosmetic company’s New York headquarters. In a corner conference room with a staggeringly beautiful view of Central Park, the two talked about striking up a friendship on the slopes of Aspen, their business relationship, and maintaining a culture of creativity at their respective companies. And, of course, we asked Freda about how the Lauders’ famous commitment to visual art influences the work of making cosmetics.
WW: We’re really excited to talk with both of you. I can see that you’re friends already, so do you want to tell us a little bit about your relationship and how it started?
FF: Please, after you!
EZ: After you! [Laughs]
FF: We were introduced by a common friend, Mr. Dominico De Sole, and the first time we met we skied together. It was a beautiful skiing day in Aspen. And then over time we discovered we also had some great business opportunities together — to do fragrances with Zegna.
WW: So tell me a little bit about the fragrance and what the creative process was on your side, because I know that fragrances are difficult: How do you turn a brand into a scent?
FF: Depends on what fragrance you’re talking about. We have a number of projects: the first one is a fresh fragrance for, I would say, a modern, younger customer. Then we have another, more exclusive product, which will be a customized project. We call it Essenza di Zegna. It has the freshness of the Italian Mediterranean Sea. And then we are working on the details of another important product — which is top secret — for next year, and I think it will be very important on a global basis.
EZ: You asked us about the difficulty of turning a brand into a fragrance, which I think is a very interesting subject. The Zegna brand has a lot of meaning in terms of quality in the materials and in the quality of the experience. “Tailor-made” is a concept that goes very well into fragrances. Fragrances are also done by ingredients, and those ingredients translate a meaning.
FF: The important thing is the story you have to tell. The Zegna family has a wonderful story to tell. The customer really trusts us with that, and that makes the brand unique.
WW: I want to ask you both about the challenges of translating the story. As you said, brands have a particular meaning. Tell me how you’re overcoming the challenge of taking the brand to these emerging markets and really translating it so that it means something similar in those places.
EZ: I think there is no issue, really, provided that you bring the real thing there. One of the reasons why luxury brands have become more and more important is because of the consistency of features that are able to translate across the world — in terms of quality, in terms of style, in terms of service. And I think that in order to have those factors align, you have to make sure you find the right people locally, and make sure to train them. Half of the customers every year are new in those countries, so unless you have an ambassador to transmit these stories, you lose the battle.
WW: I wanted to ask about the relationship between the two companies because you two obviously get along so well, and we’ve heard a lot recently about how difficult the relationship between the corporate side and the creative side can be, especially in the fashion industry. Tell us about your working relationship, because it seems like you’ve perfected it, you’ve figured it out.
FF: We are, first of all, a creative company. We don’t believe in just giving to the consumer what they already know they want. That isn’t luxury. Luxury is about surprising them. It’s about delighting them. It’s about giving them something they do not expect. I remember the first time I had a luxury thing; it was my first tailor-made suit.
To read the full article by Jamie Parra, pick up the latest issue of Whitewall or purchase it online HERE.