The Rake

CLOTHS OF HEAVEN

The gift of a great man is that he is able to read the prevailing currents as if accessing a language the rest of us have only a passable comprehension of but in which he is totally and unequivocally articulate. Sensing the seismic shift, tapped into the heart of the zeitgeist, he is able to move decisively to align the fortunes of his nation and his company with the unstoppable momentum of the future. And, in so doing, he becomes inextricably linked with that future for ever

Ermenegildo Zegna was one of these men. Placed behind a pane of glass in the Zegna museum, downstairs from its archives and adjacent to the factory and historic home of Ermenegildo Zegna in Trivero, northern Italy, is a seemingly innocuous restaurant menu. But on this menu is a list of the four courses that were served during a meal that changed the course of the Zegna company’s destiny.

In the 1930s, Zegna had experienced success in Italy and Europe. Because of more modest continental spending power, the company had developed a fine reputation in the weaving of high quality and hard wearing but less costly woollen fabrics, which were avidly consumed in Europe. But Ermenegildo Zegna understood that the real market for the finer and

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