Designer Alessandro Sartori is fascinated by the late forties in his homeland of Italy. People had come through the war, they were left with nothing, and yet their hunger for la bella figura sparked ingenious solutions to everyday problems—including how to go on looking good. In Zegna's archives, Sartori (was there ever a better designer name?) found inspirational images of working men making the most of the little they had, and these were the starting point of a collection that was a fascinating blend of old touch and new tech. The luxury of double-faced washed cashmere jersey sweatshirts and jogging pants was entirely of the here and now, but the waxed seams of trousers and jackets reflected the way in which men once treated their clothes to prolong the life of hard-worn garments. The pleat ironed into the sleeve of a silk-and-wool jacket was another forties detail, which helped formalize an ordinary item.

The same interplay of past and present shaped a silhouette as retro as leather knee breeches, which were paired with gaitered ankle boots. Coming from a company as closely identified with fine Italian tailoring as Zegna is, there was something seductively odd about such an offering. But then, Z Zegna is designed to appeal to a younger, more adventurous market. So Sartori opted for a route that offered the drama of proportions inverted (a long mohair sweater under a shorter tailored jacket, for instance) or elongated (an attenuated officer's coat in everything from washed leather to pied de poule) to upend any hidebound notions about exactly what the name of Zegna might stand for in this label-conscious day and age.