On paper, the bios of Alessandro Sartori and Jerry Lorenzo could not read more differently. Sartori is the 54-year-old artistic director of Ermenegildo Zegna, one of Italy’s largest tailors with more than a century of history. Long before his formal education at the Istituto Marangoni Milan, he created his first suit, a sharp blue number, at the age of 15 in the hopes of impressing his family. “It took six months to make, and it was a complete disaster—I can’t look at it now because it’s full of mistakes, but I thought it was beautiful at the time,” he says, chuckling at the memory.
Lorenzo, on the other hand, is the designer behind eight-year-old, Los Angeles-based streetwear label Fear of God, beloved by the likes of Kanye West, who sported the label at the 2016 Met Gala and collaborated with Lorenzo on his early Yeezy releases. Lorenzo is open about his lack of fashion credentials, having started in marketing for sports agencies before throwing parties for hip hop’s finest like Pusha T and Kid Cudi. “I thought I was going to be a sports agent,” he says. “I still don’t really like being called a designer.”
They met two years ago while Lorenzo was in Milan for business and immediately bonded over more than just fashion. “We realised that we saw the world in very similar ways even though we come from very different backgrounds,” says Lorenzo. Discovering their curiosity for each other’s expertise, the designers began speaking of a collaboration that could fill the gap in today’s menswear for relaxed tailoring, or rather the sweet spot between the casual and formal extremes of their respective brands.
Their chat resulted in a sleek capsule of 38 looks launching globally this month, featuring collarless cashmere suits, drawstring trousers and silk tracksuits. Think skatepark staples but in butter-soft leathers. Street and luxury collaborations have become ubiquitous in recent years—just this summer Dior Men dropped its already sold out Air Jordan sneakers and Matthew Williams of 1017 Alyx 9 SM fame was named as creative director of Givenchy—but there seems to be a thorough and balanced cross-pollination of both the Zegna and Fear of God aesthetics through this mashup. It’s not just another case of slapping logos onto each other’s collections.
“It’s like one plus one equals three,” says Lorenzo. “We weren’t so much trying to meet in the middle as create something new that defines the times.” Indeed, as the entire world speeds up the shift to what Lorenzo calls a “casual Friday approach five days a week”, their collaboration could not be timelier.
Meeting Of The Minds
That’s not to say there weren’t compromises. “The one sticking point was the shoulder fill [width],” Lorenzo says. “We would literally argue over whether to have 52 or 54 cm, because historically at Zegna, there’s a correct way to tailor and an incorrect way, and the way I see suiting is technically, well, incorrect.” With this project, Lorenzo set out to make tailoring less “intimidating”.
“When a suit is too perfect, it can take a guy outside of his normal character,” he says. “I like the ease and effortlessness of a shoulder that’s slightly off, the idea that a guy just threw the jacket on without trying too hard, which allows for someone to look more approachable.”
These shapes were inspired by his father, Jerry Manuel, a major league baseball player turned minor league coach, who incidentally introduced Lorenzo to the Zegna name. “Actually, suits for us were never brand new. They were always given to us by an older relative so they’d be a bit baggy,” he says. “We were a cheque-to-cheque kind of family despite what my dad’s career suggests, and he was required to suit up during company road trips and would wear this same boxy, blue blazer. He’d always manage to make whatever he was wearing appropriate, acceptable and cool because of his character.”