Among the many autarchic fibers, Ermenegildo Zegna opted for rayon. “Artificial silk” was not even a distant relative of the fine quality wool that he used to weave and had introduced to his customers. But there were no alternatives if you wanted to work and keep your people employed.
After having procured the raw material in every possible way, resisting and holding on, and depleting his stock, five years after the autarchy began, he ultimately had to give up fabrics exclusively made of wool.
Thus, in 1941, Ermenegildo Zegna founded Raiontex, a company within the company, a “rayon factory” in the wool mill. However, he made sure that the Zegna name would not be linked to rayon, mainly to avoid misunderstandings with wholesalers, tailors and loyal customers.
The fabrics of the Trivero wool mill had built a reputation for absolute quality, and cellulose — although more valuable than other autarchic surrogates — could have sent the wrong message. The “Zegna = the best wool fabrics in the world” equation had to remain valid.
With what little wool that was still available in Italy, Ermenegildo Zegna would continue to produce his well-known fabrics Electa, Astrum, Soltex, etc.
For the rest, the suffix “tex” — which sounded good and was a reference to both English and Latin — identified all the fabrics entirely or partially made of rayon. Ermenegildo Zegna, as was to be expected, even in a moment of extreme difficulty, wanted to offer diversification based on actual compositions, weaves and finishes.
“Misraiontex” was a blend (a “mix”), while “Nutex” was “new”. “Vertex” was a “top” winter fabric, while the name “Viritex” brought to mind victory but also virility. “Zetex”, i.e., “Zegna fabrics”, was instead a rather generic name, registered as a trademark for “any type of garment made with fabrics of every quality.”
The production of Zegna’s autarchic fabrics did not stop immediately at the end of the war. Peace did not promptly bring back the wool that was needed. For a few years, rayon remained one of the most important raw materials of the wool mills of Biella, not just those in Trivero.
The previously mentioned brands with a “tex” ending and the “Victrix” fabric, meaning, “the winner” (it was first deposited in 1935) were joined by the no less lictorian “Nuton”, which could have meant “new rayon fabric.”
What remains from that period of history is a life lesson and a reflection regarding the use, abuse and reuse of natural resources.