Exclusive: Gildo Zegna on buying Thom Browne, and how he has already began producing the American designer
Gildo Zegna, the CEO of Ermenegildo, who has just acquired New York fashion house Thom Browne, has a confession to make. Even before he signed off on the half-billion-dollar deal to buy an 85% stake in the label, he had already started to manufacture parts of the American designer’s collection.
“I suppose we got a little head of ourselves! But in the past few months we did start producing a small of part of Thom’s summer 2019 spring-summer collection. So, we have already taken the first steps,” laughs Zegna in a phone call from his office in south Milan.
The CEO was in an ebullient mood after completing a long-held dream – buying a happening fashion house, with a significant women’s component.
“Obviously, we were looking for something and this came along in an almost casual way. It’s a good time to do a deal and we were quick and determined. Thom Browne really knows what he wants and has a great team; with a very strong CEO Rodrigo Bazan and a great marketing and communications director in Tomaso Galli,” added Zegna.
In effect, the deal was also a meeting of old-school Gucci, since Bazan began his career as financial consultant for the Gucci Group in Florence, when Domenico de Sole was CEO. The same de Sole who was on the board of Sandbridge Capital, which bought control of Browne in 2016, and has now sold out to Zegna.
“We didn’t do this through any bank; and we jumped on it, especially as Sandbridge are very competent; we got on with Thom and Domenico de Sole helped. Call it good Italian teamwork!” chuckled Zegna.
Gildo confessed to never having attended a Browne runway show, “but I have seen several videos and for sure will come to Paris.”
Browne’s next show is scheduled for Sunday, September 30. The agreement marks the third major fashion brand showing on the great catwalks of Milan and Paris to be acquired this year – following on Dries Van Noten and Missoni.
Did Gildo, long noted for his natty Northern Italian fine fabric style, plan to wear one of the little boy suits, Browne’s signature cut off at the ankles look?
“Err… Why not? I do love his knitwear and jersey, so maybe for the time being just that!”
He added that both sides only started talking late spring. And stressed that he immediately appreciated a profitable, well run business with solid growth prospects. Brown does not release figures, but is understood to be approaching $150 million in revenues this year.
“But when I saw an opening we got together immediately. I met Thom a few times and then things moved quickly - silently and efficiently. We want to keep Thom independent. Our job is one of support. I see textiles as a major role, and some manufacturing,” said Zegna, whose fabric team are possibly the most advanced in men’s fashion anywhere. From Techmerino for machine washable suits to degradé madras in endlessly variable technological prints.
“We will see step-by-step in textiles. I really want to take Thom to our mill. And see our made to measure. I cannot tell you what sort of capital investments we will make. We just acquired Thom Browne. But in order to grow you have to invest. That’s logical,” he concluded.
Roll on Paris!
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