You don’t know his name, because that’s how this generally works. But in certain circles he’s the guy if you want your brand made in Italy: Ernesto Avenia, a Bic-bald, 45-year-old Bolognese dude, with a flexing-ass Instagram and a job nobody gets.
“Honestly I have no idea what he does,” says 20-year friend Brendon Babenzien, designer of prep-meets-streetwear giant Noah. “When we get together we just hang out and talk about clothes.”
In fact, unless you have a reason to do business with him, you’d never know he exists.
“I guess you could say he’s a contract killer,” says designer Jon Buscemi, whose Buscemi shoes are constructed from butter-soft leather and 18kt gold-plated hardware—all made in Italy. Avenia hooked Buscemi up with the producers who make those shoes, as well as the mills and manufacturers for his brand’s full line of apparel. He also personally designs Buscemi ready-to-wear, though Avenia’s name is not advertised in any way.
And he’s not really a killer. But Avenia does source killer fabrics, and perform all sorts of other jobs as a fixer in the hard-to-access world of Italian textiles and production. His main client base is American luxury streetwear. Menswear mostly, but womenswear brands reach out as well: they want fabrics, manufacturing, ghost design work. He only keeps a few clients at a time, choosy at this point of his 25-year career. His official list at the moment includes Buscemi, Fear of God, Stampd, and newcomer 4S Designs.
Avenia also says he has a personal project that might come out at the end of next year, but “that’s a secret.” Underselling it, he says he’s just a guy who loves Italy and loves clothing. “And thank god with this new evolution of streetwear, after Givenchy,” he says, referring to Watch the Throne-era Riccardo Tisci, “Americans understand that Italy is this amazing thing.”
Avenia’s skills revolve around making connections and comprehending visions. For instance, when Fear of God designer Jerry Lorenzo asked Avenia to help him make shoes, Avenia called SearchnDesign, an obscure production and design company, run by his friend Ubaldo Malvestiti. At the time, Malvestiti was working out of his house. Now SearchnDesign is a force within luxury sneakers, with an office, full design and production teams, and several clients through Avenia.
“I was asking Jon [Buscemi], ‘Hey I need a shoe to complete this look for my collection, and I want it made in Italy,’” Lorenzo explains. “And he introduced me to Ernesto. We clicked on a lot of different levels, from music taste, to our love for vintage, so I use him as a sounding board, as a friend, and he’s just really helped to navigate the design and development space within Italy.”
Fall/winter 2020 is huge for Avenia, although characteristically anonymous. It’s the launch of Fear of God’s seventh collection—the first to offer accessories, through Avenia’s introduction to the manufacturer LCB Company. And it’s the season