Growing up in Pesaro, a small seaside town on Italy’s Adriatic coast, Federico Pagnetti always dreamed of moving to the U.S. “My first visit to America was when I was 7 years old,” he recalls, “and I went to New York with my family. We spent a full month there, and I was amazed. Everything was so different from my hometown. I remember—and I probably still have somewhere—a picture I took at the very bottom of one of the World Trade Center towers, looking up. I held that childhood memory of those skyscrapers and the New York skyline in my mind, and I thought to myself, ‘One day, I want to live here.’ ” He’s since made that wish come true, only on the other side of the country: Pagnetti lives in L.A., where he’s been Citizens of Humanity’s COO since 2013.
Since he was a kid, Pagnetti’s been fascinated by understanding how things work. He spent his childhood tinkering with motors and gears—a true motorcycle obsessive, he and his friends would disassemble bikes in his garage and try to dream up ways to make them faster. “I wasn’t into fashion at all,” he admits. “I really didn’t care what I was wearing, and I didn’t know anything about jeans.” At 19, he moved to Milan to go to Bocconi University, a prestigious school, where he studied business economics, keeping one goal in mind: to travel and expand his horizons.
He got his wish when he graduated and—after a stint working at IBM—got a gig at the massive management-consulting firm Bain & Company. But his schedule was more grueling than he’d expected. “As a consultant, I traveled about five days a week,” he says. “Even though I was based in Milan, I didn’t have an apartment, because I didn’t spend any time there; I was in hotels and airplanes all week long. Luckily, my wife was patient enough to wait to see me on the weekends.” That gig also required a rigid dress code: “I wore a suit every day, like a penguin,” he laughs.
Pagnetti spent 10 years consulting with Bain, helping companies strategize and brainstorm growth opportunities, but he found himself yearning for something more. “I always wanted to work in a company that made products,” he says. “I wanted to be a part of the actual implementation of the ideas.” Finally, he got experience in fashion, via consulting jobs for designers like Valentino and Ralph Lauren. He was astounded by their creativity, and their ability to bring their ideas to the masses. “That’s when I fell in love with this industry,” he remembers.
Before Pagnetti moved to the U.S. in 2010, he’d visited several times for business and for fun. On one vacation, he and his wife did a massive month-long West Coast road trip. “We drove from San Francisco to Yosemite, Vegas, San Diego, L.A.,” he says. “We thought, ‘L.A. is nice, but maybe not the top city we’d want to live in.’ Then we moved here and we love it—we’re enjoying every day.”
Despite his change of location, Pagnetti hasn’t abandoned his first love, motorbikes. “I still go to the racetracks to ride.” He’s also a fan of a decidedly more retro pastime. “I do a lot of rollerblading on the boardwalk in Venice and Santa Monica. In Italy, I was the first one to use rollerblades, back in the ’90s. I bought them from the U.S., because they weren’t even available there. People used to stare at me and say, ‘What are you doing? Are those ski boots?’ ”
Otherwise, he spends his free hours doing a lo-fi activity that doesn’t require any equipment at all. “I love to walk, which is quite unusual in America, and especially in L.A.,” he says. “But I think it’s the best way to get familiar with your neighborhood. So I put my earbuds on, and I might walk for a full day on the weekends, looking around and taking pictures. I’m just observing normal life, and the differences between the U.S. and where I grew up. It’s funny, because while I technically grew up in Italy, after I graduated from university, I literally spent more time in other countries. So I feel more like a citizen of the world.”