Zegna: A Peek Behind the Scenes

Renovating the retailer's New York flagship involved overcoming numerous obstacles and challenges.
Posted September 10, 2009

To its upmarket shoppers, Ermenegildo Zegna’s New York flagship -- winner of VMSD's 2009 Retail Renovation Competition -- is effortlessly elegant. But as with any cool image, there’s a lot of work involved in “effortless.”

The elegant relaunch of the menswear’s Fifth Avenue store started with a gritty deconstruction of the existing retail and office space. “The Ferragamo family owned the building and was still using office space. So we had to be cognizant of their needs when we started the heavy structural work at the beginning,” says Les Hiscoe, vp retail, Shawmut Design and Construction.

Materials came through the front door if they arrived before 7 a.m. After that, they were delivered via a back elevator to the seventh floor. A crane stationed on Fifth Avenue during the wee morning hours pulled millwork up through the access points in the front
of the building. Even setting up scaffolding to work on the façade proved a major challenge since its positioning couldn’t block the entrance or foot traffic.

Of all the design complexities of the interior, the central staircase was the most demanding, says Hiscoe. “Stabilizing those glass stairs required a lot of study. So we sent a team to the prototype store in Milan to analyze our options,” he says. Integration of stainless steel for support and the introduction of “a few more solid pieces” enabled the team to resize the structure of the stairs, thereby stabilizing the entire element.(

(For a full profile of the Zegna renovation and more on the 2009 Renovation Competition winners, click here.)