Uomo, the new masculine fragrance from luxury Italian menswear brand Ermenegildo Zegna, unveiled earlier this week in Milan, marks a significant step on a path that will lead to bigger things within the men’s f&c arena, for both Zegna and its licensee Aramis and Designer Fragrances.

At the launch event, Zegna CEO Gildo Zegna underlined the house’s focus on, and commitment to, the men’s market. He also promised that all subsequent expansion into new product categories would respect the quality, consistency and exclusivity of the company to date.

Zegna Uomo is officially unveiled at a press conference in Milan

“Zegna is the number one in the top end of men’s luxury worldwide,” he declared. “We want to make it clear that today, we are in lifestyle”¦and fragrance is an important part of the luxury lifestyle business. The fact that men’s luxury has grown significantly bodes well for us. It means that we have the right vision and strategy.”

Zegna added: “But I think luxury is a big word today, and it has become a bit too stretched. These days, everyone tries to do everything, and we too have expanded – but strictly in the men’s arena. How many other luxury brands can say that?”

In 2011, total Ermenegildo Zegna Group revenues reached €1.127 billion, and today there are 557 Zegna stores (311 company-owned) in over 100 countries worldwide. Greater responsiveness and control, and a willingness to take risks, have been instrumental to this success, Zegna maintains.

The Moodie Blog
Zegna shows off its new man in Milan
This week, for a couple of days, I’ve been The Moodie Report’s Mann in Milan. That moniker is especially suited to the launch in question, Ermenegildo Zegna’s new masculine fragrance Uomo, which in Italian means – you guessed it – Man.

“Retail is the core of our business, and retail is equal to detail,” he explained. “Micro-managing every element has become very important. But to grow today, you also have to be a risk-taker; you have to have a vision, have a strategy and then go for it. And we are very good at turning negatives into positives. The world is so big. If one market is in crisis, we go somewhere else.”

Similarly, when the company decided to ramp up its presence within the beauty arena, it turned to The Estée Lauder Companies. The Zegna license was previously held by L’Oréal, which acquired it in 2008, as part of its deal to purchase YSL Beauté Holding from previous owner PPR subsidiary Gucci Group. That agreement was terminated early “by common consent” on 30 June 2011.

The new alliance has many obvious synergies. “This idea of a “˜marriage’ between the two companies is important,” acknowledged Global Brand President Aramis and Designer Fragrances, BeautyBank & IdeaBank Veronique Gabai-Pinsky, “because we are both looking at initiatives for the long term. We believe in brand building and when you work within the luxury field, this idea of building for the long term is paramount.

“We are not in the business of creating little fads that are going to die after two months of existence. We are in the business of creating something the consumer will rely on. The only way you can do that is by believing very strongly in a set of values that you establish from the start. One of the reasons why we were so excited to begin this relationship with Zegna is that they share this vision for the long term, and also that commitment to luxury, and to their consumers.”

Gabai-Pinsky was frank about the mutual opportunities the new partnership offers. “Luxury and fragrances/cosmetics are usually driven by women,” she noted, “but we saw an amazing opportunity for us to build a business in the men’s fragrance and cosmetics world. Men’s today represents about 35% of the fragrance business, and we are not yet playing meaningfully in it, because we didn’t want to do little things.

“Associating ourselves with Zegna is a way for us to build something big. And while we are talking about one project here, we are building an architecture for the Zegna brand, that incorporates fragrance today and skincare tomorrow.”

Associating ourselves with Zegna is a way for us to build something big. And while today we are talking about one project [Zegna Uomo], we are building an architecture for the Zegna brand, that incorporates fragrance today and skincare tomorrow.
Veronique Gabai-Pinsky
Global Brand President
Aramis and Designer Fragrances, BeautyBank & IdeaBank

The men’s market generally is buoyant for a number of reasons, according to Gabai-Pinsky. “I believe that men are much less into trends than women are,” she explained. “They are much more into understanding the story behind the brand.”

“Loyalty is important, too,” added Zegna. “If they like a brand or a store, they come back more often, and for the long term. In addition, parts of what we used to call emerging markets, have now emerged. Asia represents over 50% of our business. Asian consumers appreciate innovation, creativity, style and quality. And they appreciate a history. We celebrated our centenary in 2010 – that means a lot.”

“Zegna is a true luxury brand; it is not just a fashion brand,” Gabai-Pinsky underlined. “They infuse their brand with creativity and innovation on a regular basis, and they are anchored in such a strong background. That’s what we want to do with Zegna fragrance. Even with lines which are created to recruit wide, we will make sure we have the craft, creativity and culture, because that’s what makes the difference. We have to make sure we have the fundamental values to sustain the aspiration values and emotional connection that makes a fragrance fabulous.”

In addition to Uomo, the Zegna fragrance portfolio comprises the relaunched Z Zegna (which existed before Lauder took over the license) and the high-end Essenze quintet, which anchors the brand in the luxury segment. “With Uomo we want to deliver the message of the brand to a wider audience,” noted Gabai-Pinsky.

“With Uomo, we have shared everything, working very closely on every single detail,” added Image Director Anna Zegna. “There were so many different components to get right, so it was a complicated process. But within that, it was easy in the sense that we shared the same vision, and a commitment to produce the very best.”

Fabrizio Freda and Gildo Zegna pay tribute to the new fragrance – and their companies’ shared vision – at the celebratory dinner

Speaking at the evening’s cocktail and dinner reception, The Estée Lauder Companies President and CEO Fabrizio Freda commented: “I want to thank all of my team who have been involved in this project. Zegna Uomo is a fantastic product; I think you did something really good, and I’m proud of what I’m seeing. That’s important. Fragrance done well is not only successful [in its own right], but can help bring new consumers to the brand, and grow the overall business.”

Bottling the essence of Italy
The Zegna Uomo juice was composed by Firmenich’s Alberto Morillas, in partnership with Zegna and Trudi Loren, Vice President Corporate Fragrance Development Worldwide for The Estée Lauder Companies.

Calabrian bergamot, from a harvest owned by Zegna, is a key ingredient. This is complemented by Violettyne Captive, an innovative man-made molecule created by Firmenich that is said to capture the pure essence of natural violet leaves, and add a unique facet described by perfumers as a “metallic vibration”, for added brightness and diffusion. Other ingredients include vetiver and cedar.

“We had a very clear concept in mind right from the very beginning, and that’s not always the case,” noted Loren. “The concept and the fragrance had to capture this feeling of ascension, as well as expanse. Those are not necessarily words that we use in perfumery terms. But when I briefed Alberto he had several things in mind that he thought might fit the project.”

The juice is anchored around bergamot, chosen for the fact that it is a quintessentially Italian ingredient. In olfactory terms, it is a common thread that will feature throughout Zegna’s fragrance portfolio.

“Having a dedicated bergamot harvest for Zegna allows us to guarantee its quality, and is similar to the approach Zegna takes with its fashion,” Loren explained. “They own their sheep, which gives them control over the quality of the wool. There are a lot of synergies between the two processes.”

Scaling new heights in Capri
The Uomo advertising campaign, overseen by SelectNY President & Worldwide Creative Director Olivier Van Doorne, centres around themes of strength, destiny and ascension. “Men are so driven to achieve something with their lives,” noted Gabai-Pinsky. “And we wanted to convey this idea of ascent, of becoming who you really are, and of being in control of your own destiny. We wanted to tell the story of the journey of the man who “˜steps up’, and achieves his personal goals.”

“It’s a single-minded story,” added Van Doorne, “and we had to tell it in a simple manner, as an allegory. There was only one possible location for what we had in mind: Casa Malaparte in Capri. It is unique.”

The iconic staircase at Capri’s Casa Malaparte plays a key role in the Uomo ad campaign

The fragrance face is model Ryan Burns. In the TV ad campaign (shot by director Jonas Ã…kerland) he is shown climbing the location’s spectacular reverse pyramidal staircase, as he literally and figuratively “steps up” to his destiny. The print campaign was shot by Matthew Brooks.

“If you want to talk about men with some kind of intelligence or substance, architecture is a good vehicle,” noted Van Doorne. “Casa Malaparte is such an iconic monument, and it was in our heads as a location from the very beginning.”

He added: “[The campaign] has different layers, and there are two levels to the story. You can love it, without knowing anything about [Casa Malaparte]. But if you do know a bit more, it adds to the story and makes it even better.”