Zegna poaches LVMH executive to run Tom Ford fashion arm

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Zegna poaches LVMH executive to run Tom Ford fashion arm

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Italy’s Ermenegildo Zegna Group has poached an LVMH executive to run its recently acquired Tom Ford fashion business as it plans to expand the brand in Europe and Asia.

The Milan-based company has recruited Lelio Gavazza, who oversaw sales and retail at jeweller Bulgari, as the new chief executive of Tom Ford Fashion, which includes luxury men’s and womenswear, an accessories line and a children’s collection.

Estée Lauder bought Tom Ford last year from its eponymous founder and co-founder Domenico De Sole for $2.8bn including debt. The US conglomerate operates the beauty line and owns the Tom Ford trademark but sold the fashion business, valued at about $175mn excluding debt, to the Zegna group as part of the deal.

The agreement includes a 30-year licence of the Tom Ford trademark for the Italian group. Estée Lauder also licensed the eyewear business to another Italian company, Marcolin.

Gildo Zegna, the chief executive of the fashion group, told the Financial Times he wanted to make the brand among the top ten fashion names in the world.

“The aim is to grow the womenswear business and strengthen the Tom Ford distribution outside the US, so in Europe and Asia,” he said.

Gavazza, who starts his new role in September, will work closely with creative director Peter Hawkings, Ford’s successor, and the Tom Ford chief executive and president Guillaume Jesel.

Zegna said he would be a “bridge builder” between the different parts of the Tom Ford business. Jesel, who was appointed to the role by Estée Lauder, is based at the group’s headquarters in New York and Hawkings, for decades Ford’s right-hand man, works out of London. 

Earlier this month it was announced that Hawkings’ debut fashion show in September would take place in Milan, in a nod to Zegna’s heritage and Italian craftsmanship.

“It restarts in Milan where Tom [Ford] did one of his first fashion shows in the 1990s,” said Zegna. Before launching his own brand, Ford was the creative director of Milan-based Gucci, which was later acquired by French conglomerate Kering.

For the Zegna group, founded by the current chief executive’s grandfather in 1910, the Tom Ford acquisition and Gavazza’s appointment are the culmination of an expansion project that began two years ago with the company’s New York listing.

The Zegna group has a market capitalisation of $3.64bn and it was the first historic Italian luxury label to list in New York. Over the first quarter of the year it reported a 13.4 per cent surge in revenues to €428.3mn as China lifted its Covid-19 restrictions.

“When we listed I said we were doing so to grow in scale . . . and that’s what we are doing,” said Zegna. “Wall Street teaches entrepreneurs you must not over promise but you should over deliver.”

The company has morphed from a traditional suits-centric menswear brand into a contemporary global group, spanning womenswear, shoes and accessories and encompassing brands such as Thom Browne, known for its unconventional short-trouser suits, which it acquired in 2018.

The Zegna and Prada groups last month also announced the acquisition of a minority stake in Italian knitwear company Fedeli. It was the latest in a series of supply chain acquisitions that Zegna describes as important in ensuring production continuity and product traceability, an increasingly important demand by luxury consumers.

The Ermenegildo Zegna brand has also been shaken up with the launch of casual wear. “In under two years we went from formal to informal and rejuvenated the Zegna brand, we have changed the perception of the Zegna group and now we want to take Tom Ford Fashion to new heights,” said Zegna.

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