While, these days, Italian fashion mogul Brunello Cucinelli is considered by many as not only the king of cashmere, but also the king of vertical integration and altruism, another Italian company, the Ermenegildo Zegna Group—founded more than 50 years prior to Cucinelli—has been operating by a similar credo since its inception. The legacy began during the late nineteenth century, when Michelangelo Zegna, a watchmaker by trade, began weaving wool from four looms in Trivero, in the Alpine foothills near Biella, in northern Italy. In 1910, Ermenegildo, the youngest of his ten sons, took over the looms from his father and founded the Lanificio Zegna (wool mill) at the age of eighteen with the help of his brothers Edoardo and Mario. Ermenegildo believed that, in order to be successful, his fabrics had to be “the most beautiful in the world.” He hoped to accomplish this feat by specifically sourcing natural fiber wools directly from their country of origin. According to Anna Zegna—the brand’s current image coordinator—the Alpine water didn’t hurt either. “The water at Trivero, due to its altitude, is incredibly soft, which made it ideal for washing wool,” she said to the Los Angeles Times in 2010. The combination of superior wool and Ermenegildo Zegna’s business sense quickly lead to local success. By 1927. the Lanificio Zegna employed 723 workers, which allowed the youngest of the Zegna clan to bring some of his other beliefs to fruition, namely sustainability and stewardship.

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