Though we most certainly hail from the U.S., we often like to play make-believe and act as though we’re from destinations around the globe. One of those destinations is Italy, because who doesn’t walk around Milan (or watch a Fellini film) and not want to look like every chic Italian woman they see?
Ermenegildo Zegna’s Anna Zegna is no exception to this rule. So when we heard she was hailing from Milan last week to celebrate the launch of the brand’s newest fragrance – Acqua di Bergamotto (inspired by relaxed Italian luxury and the Italian man on holiday) – we came running; actually no, not running, walking (walking smoothly in heels like a much more refined Italian woman would).
We like to think we can pull off wearing the fragrance like Anna does, and you can too. Wouldn’t your boyfriend find that sexy? An Italian boyfriend would. All in all, we weren’t sure where to start when it came to emulating being an Italian, but we’re thinking smothering ourselves in this delicious scent is a good start. That or hearing from Zegna herself about the best Italian destinations, what a scent says about a man and the most effective way for women to wear perfume…
The New Potato: From start to finish, what would be your ideal food day?
Anna Zegna: It would start with green tea and fruit. I’m a sort of healthy person in the sense that I feel better when I eat clean. And I love pasta. Being Italian, how could I live without pasta? But simple pasta. There is a pasta that they cook in southern Italy called Sciue Sciue which is just fresh tomatoes, a hint of basil, olive oil, and a little bit of garlic — finito. Eat the pasta and [makes kissing noise] — ottimo. I’m not a meat person so I would rather eat more vegetables or some fish as a second course. And I have a crack for chocolate — I’m done.
TNP: What was the inspiration for the new fragrance?
AZ: The inspiration is actually southern Italy. A summer vibe on the Italian coast with a lot of freshness, the open sea, and this holiday feeling that wherever you are, you can smell and bring it with you – even if you are using Acqua di Bergamotto in New York. The bergamotto is a typical Mediterranean fruit. You cannot use it for cooking; it’s mainly a scent. We have to be consistent with the Zegna vision of quality, naturalness and respect for nature. Estée Lauder Companies has even bought part of land where we harvest the bergamotto, so all the bergamotto that is used in the fragrance is only harvested in Calabria, in the south of Italy. This, I think, makes it very special, because not only do you know what you are wearing, but you also know where the raw materials come from.
TNP: Do you like the scent for women too?
AZ: I’m wearing it right now. I like the feeling of it. A fragrance always adapts to you. If you wear it and if I wear it, we will have two different fragrances. I like how it shifts with your personality.
TNP: How does the fragrance mesh with the clothing and accessories at Zegna? Is it more about a lifestyle? If so, what is that lifestyle?
AZ: In this respect, it’s really more the relaxed attitude. Of course the Zegna man is a man that works very hard, but he also likes to enjoy life. The enjoyment is really about this leisure time – this sophisticated informality that we offer in our collection and that completes the formal and business attire. Men — and I’m sure you’ve seen it in New York also — don’t just wear a suit today. We have a lot more consumers that wear sport coats. I think that in this kind of more relaxed attitude, the fragrance can become an addition to this world. Acqua di Bergamotto completes it perfectly, especially for summer. If you go to Long Island you can wear it. You don’t need to travel to Italy, I promise.
TNP: Personally what are your favorite spots to travel in Italy?
AZ: I love to ski in winter, so I go more north into the Alps, very close to home. We have this beautiful project called Oasi Zegna – which is actually protected land, but open to everybody – that surrounds the factory that my grandfather built. It’s an amazing spot because it’s 100 kilometers wide where he planted half a million trees. In winter we have snow so you can go cross-country, downhill skiing, or snowshoeing. In the summer you can go biking and walking. It is beautiful.
I love to also visit the Italian countryside, because I think that there are so many beautiful small places in Italy, which are not the usual Firenze, Rome, and Venice. If you go to Padova in Veneto you have the Ville Venete, which are unbelievably interesting for the architecture. If you go to Tuscany, you just drive within the hills and can go for wine tasting. If you go south, you find yourself in a totally different mood near Naples. Or the islands — fantastic. This is what is so special about our country. Even as an Italian, you cannot stop finding something new.
TNP: What do you always bring with you when you travel?
AZ: Now I will bring always Acqua di Bergamotto. I always have a white shirt and a swimsuit at this time of year. And I always have a cashmere sweater – especially in this country [the U.S.] because you use a lot of air conditioning. (Laughs) I always have my cashmere sweater and an Agnona shawl. It is like my blanket.
TNP: What’s it like being a woman working at a menswear brand?
AZ: My biggest challenge is that I can never really try the product because I’m not a man. (Laughs) But this is also a great advantage, because sometimes I can have it made to measure. So what I’m wearing today, for example, is Agnona, but it’s tailored by Zegna. So I can feel why they say, “It’s so comfortable. It’s like a second skin.” The other side, which I think is the great opportunity, is that I bring a woman’s approach with my intuition. I think that today not only for Zegna but in all businesses, this relationship between men and women is very highly appreciated and is a nice completion to the brand. It’s always nice to see things from a feminine point of view.
TNP: How do you keep the brand timeless but still relevant?
AZ: By evolving it every day. We don’t live in a static world; we live in an evolution — us as human beings too. And I think that is the same for the personality of the brand. If you evolve, the brand evolves with you. It evolves with your customer, but you have to anticipate this evolution. The challenge is how to anticipate this evolution in a fast-changing world. When you have a global brand, you have to look at it from all the different countries. We are an Italian brand, and this is what our customers love about Zegna, but there is always a great respect for their cultures, so it’s not an imposition, it’s a blend.
TNP: What do you think a man’s scent says about him?
AZ: I think it’s one of the aspects of his personality. A man can choose his own style but wear it in different ways. This applies also to a fragrance.
TNP: What’s the one thing that every man should own?
AZ: Well, I’ll give you two answers. A concrete one, which is a Zegna piece in his wardrobe. Secondly, respect, which is not concrete, but is what makes a man a man.
TNP: Something that women don’t know about men that they should?
AZ: I think that women know a lot about men – more than they think. Maybe they don’t think we know, but we know. They don’t know about us, but we know about them.
TNP: When you put on perfume, where is the spot that really makes it stay with you?
AZ: I love to put it like Marilyn Monroe — two drops behind my ears. For me, this is very subtle, but it’s very sensuous at the same time. You don’t get in the way of the people, but if you’re close enough to someone that you really like, he will get it or she will get it. So if I hug my kids, they will feel it. If I kiss my husband, he will feel it. It’s very personal.
*Anna Zegna, photographed at the Gramercy Park Hotel in New York, NY by Danielle Kosann. Sponsored by Zegna.