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When is a Zegna suit not a Zegna suit?

Ermenegildo Zegna is a world-renowned Italian design house and textile manufacturer. As well as making garments for themselves Zegna also make suits for the likes of Tom Ford, Gucci and other top-of-the-range brands with starting prices of at least £2000 off-the-peg. They also weave cloth which they sell to bespoke tailors like us to use to make up suits for their own clients but, as you can imagine, this cloth commands quite a hefty price tag.

So you can imagine our curiosity whenever we see a full-page colour advertisement in a London paper from a Hong Kong-based tailor offering to make a suit using Zegna cloth at a price that appears, on the surface, to be too good to be true. I’m sure most of you will have seen such adverts but for those of you that haven’t these particular tailors travel to the UK, book rooms in hotels where they receive clients, send the measurements to Hong Kong and then the suits are duly shipped to the clients at a later date.

Now this article isn’t about the service that is offered, the after-sales, the physical construction or styling of the garments from that company. This is asking the question how can a suit that is constructed using Zegna cloth be made at such a seemingly great price to the customer whilst also providing a profit to the tailor? After all, colour ads, flights from the Far East and London hotel rooms all come at quite an expense and that’s before you’ve even wrapped a tape measure around someone. We’ve always had our suspicions how it’s achieved but we’ve never been able to verify it for ourselves – over the years a number of men have commented to us, having used the service, that they were quite pleased with the suit but were never quite sure ‘if this was the cloth I ordered’. So you can imagine our delight when we managed to get our hands on one.

Cloth, when it is woven, has a ‘selvedge’ (a corruption of ‘self-edge’) which is a strip running either side of the cloth that stops it from fraying or unravelling (see below left). The selvedge usually shows the cloth composition and where it is woven. If the cloth is being woven for a brand, such as Zegna, then they’ll want their name on there too. For want of a better term it’s the cloth’s ‘I.D.’ In tailoring the selvedge is used, still attached to the cloth, in areas where it will not be visible but the coat or trouser maker wants the edge to be finished. The other thing to notice in this instance is the jacket lining has the Zegna branding and logo (see pic) which would give the impression that this is a suit made from Zegna cloth, otherwise why bother putting it in?

So, having now having had the opportunity to ‘look inside’, there is no sign of any Zegna branding on the cloth inside the jacket or the trousers which leads us to believe that there is a high possibility that the cloth used to make this particular suit was not the cloth selected from the Zegna bunch by the client.

If the price seems too good to be true then it most probably is!