Back in mid January, Z Zegna, the precocious little brother label to Italian menswear stalwart Ermenegildo Zegna, invited me to partake in a Google+ hangout with it’s new creative director Paul Surridge. I was to get a verbal preview of his upcoming third collection for the line, which he was slated to show at the Milan shows the next day. Surridge’s pedigree is clean. For years he had worked as the right-hand man to some of the industry’s heavyweights, the likes of Neil Barrett, for example, when he was at the helm at Prada. Surridge is a self-acknowleged techie, thus our initial meeting via the interwebs. It’s a trait that has carried him forward at Z Zegna, a brand marked by its deep investments in fabric innovations.
The show has come and gone, but Surridge and his team sought the opportunity to invite a few select menswear bloggers to the Zegna showroom here in New York last week to present some key pieces from his collection. When we last spoke in January, he had mentioned that the nexus of the collection was the ‘nomad’. Perhaps a bit superfluous, given the name of the collection: “The Great Outdoors – The Urban Wanderer Meets the Great Outdoors.” In a showroom way on the 17th floor, overlooking Central Park, the select pieces stood on glass pedestals strewn with the self-same mulch that covered his runway back in Milan. Luckily for all interested parties, this was no staple gypsy parade. Surridge’s collection is a bona fide embrace of what the future should hold for outerwear. This being Zegna after all, Surridge couldn’t forsake the suit altogether. His pièce de résistance for eveningwear was a black single-breasted suit embossed in a bespoke pattern created by the house specifically for the collection, with a dramatic black silk scarf criss-crossed underneath the jacket that extended to the ankles.
But back to the outerwear. The most covetable of his variegated offerings was a deep clay coat layered under what looked like a flocked wool hood, cinched at the waist by an industrial buckle, the zip mimicking the gem stone-faceted bags and shoes (all one piece). It was slightly odd, but tantalizing all the same. I dubbed it the “new Franciscan monk.” And it was no wonder that Surridge paid special attention to that Tobiko orange tabard vest that came completely sliced open at the sides, held together by elastic bands. It looked just as fresh and felt just as new as it did back in January. When I expressed how taken I was by that piece, he confided that top editors and close friends alike were chomping at the bit for one of their own after the show. Its gravitas was as undeniable then as it is now. To see it up close, to touch it, was merely a perk.