As the fourth-generation family member at the helm of one of Italy’s most successful fashion brands, Gildo Zegna is adept at balancing his business and personal lives. "Family is the most important part of my life, and the family business is my passion," says the Ermenegildo Zegna Group’s 55-year-old CEO, who is based in Milan but spends much of his time traveling the world leading his brand’s international expansion. A Renaissance man of sorts, Zegna is a collector of contemporary art, but his passions range from vintage automobiles to fine wines and watches. As evidenced by his clothing lines, he has a deep appreciation for old-world craftsmanship and is a connoisseur in the art of living well. —Jill Newman
How do your hobbies relate to the Zegna business?
Zegna is a lifestyle brand, and my love for contemporary art, automobiles, and watches is absolutely linked to the design and aesthetic of what we create. They are all works of art in their own right, and it is with this attention to detail that we go about designing our collections each season.
Tell us about the significance of watches in your family.
Watches certainly do carry sentimental value in our family. When I turned 18 years old, my father gave me a Rolex Oyster Perpetual, which I still own today. I carried on the tradition, giving the same [model] to my two sons. My great-grandfather Michelangelo Zegna was a watchmaker by trade, and he owned a 19th-century pocket watch that I always admired from a young age. This watch, which is still a part of the family and is housed in the Casa Zegna museum, is the inspiration for the new Monterubello watch collection that we will debut this fall with Girard-Perregaux. We are proud to have launched our watch collection in partnership with Girard-Perregaux, a family-owned company just like Zegna.
Like many watch collectors, you also collect automobiles.
I have always been interested in things with impressive mechanics and designs that have exceptional heritage. I also love the smell of old leather and the feel of wood detailing in vintage cars. I own a few Lancias, among which an Aurelia B20 from the 1950s is perfect for driving through the Italian countryside.
Which region of the Italian countryside is your favorite for wine?
My favorite wines are from Piedmont, particularly wines from Gaja. I like the 2007 Barbaresco and also the Sito Moresco is fantastic. It is a Nebbiolo blend that you can drink all year long and that pairs beautifully with almost every dish. Gaja Gaia & Rey is my favorite white wine.
Describe your ideal Sunday.
My ideal Sunday is to rest in the silence of my home and also to practice outdoor sports that put me in contact with nature, which I love. My favorite hobbies are skiing in the winter in St. Moritz or Aspen, and trekking in the Swiss Alps. It’s important to appreciate the nature that surrounds us.