The History of D’Avenza

Handmade ready to wear garments with the finest materials and construction to an affordable price. In my ears, it sounds like a perfect combination for the gentlemen who wants quality that is as close as possible to bespoke, but do not have the time to wait for weeks, or even months. One of the first brands that took this concept to the world was D’Avenza, and in today’s article I wanted us to look closer at the brand and where you are still able to buy the last available collections.  

Simon Ackerman started his concern as a men’s clothing manufacturer in 1914 in New York. After bringing quality tailored clothing in the higher price range to the North America market, he went back to his roots in England and came up with the idea to import British made suits for the North America market.

At his return to London in 1935, he established a new tailor house with the name Chester Barrie. The aim was to create ready to wear tailoring garments with the same attention and quality as the bespoke garments from the famous tailors in Savile Row, England. The success behind it was to create a shorter wait time for this level of quality, and also a considerable lower price for the customer. To be able to sell the suits to an affordable price, the button holes were unfinished and therefor the company were able to send them to the United States without any additional import duties.

To be able to retain the level of quality in the workshop, the company constantly acquired skilled tailors from Italy. In the 1950’s, the company started to initiate an idea to start a new tailor house in Italy instead of importing tailors to England. It was not until 1957 that the new tailor house D’Avenza was founded in the Italian town of where the brand takes its name from, Avenza di Carrara.

Video that describes the steps behind a D’Avenza garment.

D’Avenza was unique many ways and it is said to be the first company who started to mass produce hand made tailoring garments in Italy. Many other famous tailoring houses such as Kiton and Attolini looked at D’Avenza and adopted to what is later to be known as the “D’Avenza method”. The brand had its most successful era up until the 1970’s and were later bought out of bankruptcy in 1994 by Renato Cecchi, an Italian entrepreneur which is most famous for his ownership of the Santo Stefano textile mill. The brand was relaunched in 2007 offering a range of new types of jackets from the old archives.

The modern phases of the old D’Avenza was manufactured in the years of 2001-2012. During this time period, the garments was overseen and styled by master cutter Ralph Anania. It was not until 2014 when the company was transitioned to the new Italian owner, Brand Amour, and what many would call the end of the era of D’Avenza. At this time, D’Avenza changed focus from being a brand that produced high end handmade tailoring garments, to producing fashionable sport coats and jacket in technical materials.

Typical double breasted silhouette from the brand featuring large peak lapels and a marked shoulder.
Typical double breasted silhouette from the brand featuring large peak lapels and a marked shoulder.
Another signature look is the slightly curved breast pocket, the so called “barchetta”. Also note the beautifully handmade buttonhole.

There are few historical houses that can mention clients such as Mastroianni, Steve McQueen, Marlon Brando, Cary Grant, Tyrone Power and Gregory Peck. Even that the old brand of D’Avenza have been decommissioned since long, there are still connoisseurs that are putting hands on the garments due to its reputation. As these garments are no longer produced, getting a hold of garments would acquire you to find one of the few dead stocks that are available. Sellers on Ebay and Grailed would still stock some of the last pieces from the old era of D’Avenza that are available. Another retailer that acquired are great stock and one of the last collections available was Sartoriale. Sartoriale is a multi-brand retailer which have maintained a great relationship with luxury brands such as Kiton, Rubinacci and Attolini. These kind of relationships have made it possible to acquire old stock from brands such as D’Avenza, Sartoria Partenopa, Chiaia. 

Last Tango In Paris, 1972, starring Marlon Brando in a bespoke overcoat from D'Avenza.
Last Tango In Paris, 1972, starring Marlon Brando in a bespoke overcoat from D’Avenza.
Another look at the camel overcoat from D'Avenza.
Another look at the camel overcoat from D’Avenza.

In terms of craftsmanship, D’Avenza belonged to the same range as one of the finest tailoring houses such as Kiton, Attolini and Brioni. That means more or less everything was made by the highest standard and by hand, and always had a floating full canvas construction when applicable. Only some minor details such as the lining was not always attached by hand.

The most common comparison have been made between Brioni and D’Avenza due to its similarities of their house style. As many other brands, D’Avenza have manufactured different type of models during the years, which have included details such as a more constructed shoulder with more padding, high waist trousers with a wider silhouette, slimmer trousers with a narrow opening and lightweight summer sport coats without any type of canvas construction. The list can be made long and a lot of these garments can feel outdated looking at today’s trends.

If we look at the current availability on the different models, most of the garments would probably have been produced in the 2000’s. That means that it is a high possibility to find garments with more minimalist and light weighted construction, featuring details such as soft shoulders with less padding, barchetta breast pockets and three-two rolled lapels. 

In the end, D’Avenza never manged established its brand in neither the North America or European market, which still astonish me as well as other people around the globe. What we do know is that D’Avenza, the former D’Avenza that is, created one of the finest ready to wear tailoring in the world. 

Martingale belt featured on D’Avenzas polo coats (detail photo from polo coat below).
Handmade buttons holes and horn buttons are key feature on the brands garments (detail photo from Raglan coat below).