In Italy, passion, beauty and craftsmanship are everything. Be it the evocative lines of a supercar, the sharp cut of a suit or marking an occasion, if something is worth doing, it's worth doing well. Very well.
And so, for the golden anniversary of the Zegna Wool Awards in 2013, the Italians didn't hold back. Celebrities, media and VIPs from 31 countries descended on Sydney for an epic celebration in partnership with The Woolmark Company.
It was a veritable who's who as cousins Gildo (CEO) and Paolo (Chairman) Zegna of the Ermenegildo Zegna Group hosted a bash for 1,000, rubbing shoulders with guests including Thor star Chris Hemsworth, model-actress Megan Gale, actor Daniel Henney, New South Wales Governor Marie Bashir and Italian ambassador Gian Ludovico De Martino Di Montegiordano.
The gala event was, in fact, the culmination of two days of 50th festivities. A day earlier, 150 key guests experienced the wonder of wool for themselves, visiting top wool producing properties in the New England region of New South Wales. Inducted into the intricacies of wool growing, they were shown how, over the past 200 years, Australian Merino wool has set the benchmark for fashion fleece, supplying 90% of wool used in the fine apparel market. And as one of the textile's biggest buyers, Zegna has also been one of its greatest champions.
The Italian fashion house has long considered Merino wool the best fibre with which to execute their fine men's tailoring. The yarn possesses elasticity, comfort and breathability along with a fineness that brings added luxury to their signature suiting. The label was first to sign a worldwide license to use the now-iconic Woolmark in the sixties. And in the pursuit of excellence, Zegna worked with local woolgrowers to refine and innovate the product through the Ermenegildo Zegna Wool Awards, introduced in 1963.
Fast-forward fifty years to Sydney's Royal Hall of Industries on April 23, 2013, where the awards' half-century was commemorated in spectacular fashion. A striking multimedia installation highlighted Australia's wool growing regions and Italy's weaving district, showing how close knit they've become over the decades.
To drive the message home, 60 international male models stormed the longest runway ever built in Australia, showcasing Zegna's fall/winter 2013 collection and debuting the Australian Celebration capsule collection, which pays homage to Zegna's long-standing love affair with Australian Merino wool.
It's an affair that has reaped benefits. In awarding the 50th Edition Vellus Aureum Trophy to Ed & Jill Hundy of Windradeen, Paolo Zegna declared, "The fleece that won this edition with 11.5 microns is fantastic. More beautiful than fleeces from past editions, even if less fine ... The jury considers other factors in addition to fineness such as the length of the fibre, its strength, uniformity, colour and character. All important features that compose the quality of Merino wool."
And with that the formalities concluded, the hall transforming into a giant party headlined by indie-pop act Temper Trap. Top night. Or, as the Italians might say, "una grande serata".
Nick Wooster visits the source of Merino wool