To tell the story of over a hundred years of business through Ermenegildo Zegna Group’s vast heritage of documentation assembled by the Zegna Archive since 2003. This is the purpose of the new website – Archiviozegna.com – which makes most of the historical and product information archived in over ten years of work available to Italians and non-Italians alike. The material includes around 1,000 paper document binders (filling over a kilometer of shelf space), over 100,000 photos, over 1,000 old films and more recent videos, an entire fabric samples collection from 1910 to 1960, and thousands of technical drawings and advertising materials from the ’30s onwards. The heart of Casa Zegna in Trivero (Biella), the Archive contains not only the impressive fabric archive but also an extraordinary array of materials documenting business history and environmental and social activism. It’s a vital facility in continual transformation. Its task is not to hide way the past but build on the Group’s heritage of memory and offer new ideas blending tradition and innovation. The same approach is applied to perfection in the new website, a unique instrument enabling people to discover one of the most interesting stories of “Made in Italy” industry. We asked the Archive’s technical manager Danilo Craveia to explain the value of an initiative that provides access to key pages in the history of our country. How did the idea of opening up the Zegna Archive via the Internet come about? The underlying insight was that behind an Italian brand or product there’s often an interesting and complex story that’s worth telling. As in the case of Ermenegildo Zegna Group, which can boast over a hundred years of history. So we decided to create a site to take visitors on a guided tour of the four main areas of development – all closely interlinked – in the “world” of Zegna. “Family Business” tells the story of how the various companies in the Zegna Group evolved, from the Wool Mill founded in 1910 down to today’s global organization. “Products and Communication” traces the history of the products and the communication strategies adopted for them. “Environment and Mountains” illustrates the “green philosophy” of the Group’s founder, Ermenegildo Zegna, and the relationship between the company and Biella’s montane territory and the environment in general. And lastly, the “Philanthropy and Culture” section focuses on the Group’s charity and cultural activities initiated by Ermenegildo Zegna with his “social works” in the 1920s and carried forward today by Fondazione Zegna, which was set up in 2000. What is the importance of the Archive’s work in relation to the Group’s strategies? Conservation of an enterprise’s “memory” should be seen as a highly proficuous investment in the medium- and long-term. If we support it today, it will yield tomorrow and the day after. This approach is in line with that of Ermenegildo Zegna himself and his two sons Aldo and Angelo, who decided to record their experiences over the years in both business and social contexts. An organization as old and wide-reaching as Ermenegildo Zegna Group has produced and goes on producing large amounts of material documenting its activities. We must collect and conserve all this, for the needs of both today and above all tomorrow. How is the documentation in the Archive actually used? The Zegna Archive is not a warehouse or even a museum but should be seen for all intents and purposes as an active and integral part of Ermenegildo Zegna Group. As well as providing the historical substrate needed for celebrating the various landmarks in our history, it makes it possible for Casa Zegna (the facility that opened inside the Wool Mill in Trivero (Biella) in 2007) to put on exhibitions every year, which have so far had over 6,000 visitors. And it’s constantly throwing up ideas and suggestions on how to build on the Group’s incredible documental heritage, so it’s in fact a cultural “workshop” as well. What makes the Zegna Archive different from other similar facilities? Unlike many other company archives, it doesn’t only preserve the “product” but also quantities of documentation and images with a degree of comprehensiveness that’s unique. This wealth is also reflected in the variety of materials kept: from Ermenegildo Zegna’s handwritten registers and notebooks to typed correspondence, telegrams and telexes, photo negatives on glass and raw format files, floppies, VHSs and DVDs. Over a century of history, from the fabrics of 1910 down to the latest digital media, is thus covered with extraordinary continuity. Visit new Zegna Archive website
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