By Aimee B.
The world headquarters for Alpinestars is located in a little town called Asolo that lies about an hour outside of Venice. It is actually an ancient, medieval walled city that dates back thousands of years. The village itself lies just outside of the famous dolomite mountains, and therefore is a mecca for cyclists to come here and train for their hill climbs. Everywhere we went throughout this tiny village we would see cyclists training.
This tiny town is beyond picturesque with countless tiny shops and cafes, an old abbey, and even a castle that sits high atop the city. The setting couldn’t be more storybook like as a backdrop for what has become one of the biggest names in motorcycle gear.
Alpinestars actually has two different buildings in Asolo. The first is the original headquarters. The Mazzarollo family actually lived in this building as well when the company was still new. It started as a hiking boot company in the 60s. The name Alpinestars coming from the Alpine Star flower (also known as Edelweiss) that is the highest altitude growing flower in the Alps. I think the fact that the company name is in English shows the depth of the vision that Sante Mazzarollo had for the company all those years ago.
At that original facility which is now the Safety Development Center most of the design is done, as well as some production. On the main floor in the front are the design offices, where designers work to create the most cutting edge designs for all sectors of the motorsports industry. Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to film in those areas but trust me when I say they’re working on some really exciting things!
As you go toward the back half of the building you walk out in to a production center. The room is filled with dozens of sewing machines all in the center of the room. This production facility is where all the custom race suits are made, the product samples and all the one-offs are constructed, and pretty much anything that is completely unique is manufactured here for say a MotoGP rider or a Formula 1 driver.
I instantly took note of one in the center where a woman was sewing a bright orange race suit. As I went over to check it out I realized that it was, in fact Danny Pedrosas race suit. I stood there for quite a while watching her construct the suit, really taking it all in. It was amazing how much skill she had to be able to really manipulate the leather and get everything just perfect. She trimmed every thread, checked every seam, and handled the suit with such care. It’s one thing to see a race suit hanging on a rack, it’s something else entirely to see the real human element that goes behind something like that.
Toward the back there was a woman that took the race suits as the other women finished sewing them. She would double check that all the threads had been clipped, then she would put the armor inside the suit. I saw her pull out a binder and flipping through the pages once she had finished with the suit. I asked our tour guide what she was doing. Apparently all race suits go through a cataloging process from the time they’re ‘born’ through their retirement. Any time they are worked on or touch the hands of Alpinestars the event is recorded in detail.
To one side of the room there was a guy cutting plain white race suit pieces by hand. I didn’t understand at first why they were cutting plain white fabric for all the pieces, you pretty much never see a solid white race suit. Its then that we walked in to a room hidden off the side that housed one of the largest printers I’ve ever seen, attached to an equally large table. Here the pattern pieces are printed with the racers custom graphics. By using this machine the racers don’t have to sew on patches, which adds to the weight of the suit, and graphics can be changed much easier than back on the day when it was patches. It prints suit pieces like you would print on paper, and not just suits but printed boot pieces, too!
On the other wall they were constructing all kinds of gloves for Moto GP and Formula 1 drivers, as well as Formula 1 race suits. I got to hold one of the Formula 1 suits and it was crazy how incredibly light it is despite being four layers of flame-retardant fabric.
Another huge manufacturing room was connected to the first, and is home to a huge boot manufacturing facility. All of the boot samples are made here, as well as the custom printed boots for all the pro riders.
Alpinestars has spent many years perfecting the foot shape that they use for the boots, and they use these molds to construct every one of their boots. They have these giant Frankenstein-like machines that fuse the main boot to the sole, and shape it perfectly to this unique foot cast that Alpinestars has perfected. The process is the same that it’s been for many many years, and it’s easy to feel like you’ve gone back in time when you’re standing in that manufacturing room. Alpinestars is also the only company in the US that currently can properly re-sole their own boots.
The main headquarters is a newer building, and houses most of the offices, design staff, showrooms, and product testing. On the main floor are the offices and showroom. It’s an incredibly modern facility that effortlessly emulates the innovative spirit of Alpinestars. As you walk around the building there are bikes, pictures and gear throughout – really emphasizing their love of the sport. Everyone was so incredibly welcoming to us and clearly excited to share their passion for the brand.
We walked through a first level of security to get down into the basement. It is obvious that there is a lot of innovation happening here, and they are very rightfully protective of it. As we walked downstairs there was a wall that all the pro racers sign when they come to Alpinestars. Beyond that lie the main design offices, where at that moment they were designing the 2018 gear lines. We obviously couldn’t film in that area either, but lets’ just say it made me very excited for what was to come.
After that we went in to the testing facility which is behind yet another level of security. In this area all the products undergo rigorous testing for safety and durability. It speaks volumes for Alpinestars that they do this all in house. Most companies outsource their design, their sampling, and all their product testing, but Alpinestars does it right here so they can see firsthand how their products are going to hold up over time. They had machines that test for strength, durability, flame retardance, and even one to test how well the shoes and boots would hold up over time. They could test how well colors would hold, and how water resistant something was. It is easy for a company to say their product performs well in extreme conditions, it is something else entirely for a company to truly push their products to the limits so they can say without a doubt that they’re building the very best products for their customers.
The last thing we got to do is preview the lines that don’t release until Spring of 2017. Let me just say that was perhaps the greatest honor of the whole trip. After seeing all the design, research, and testing that happens in-house with all these products it changed the way that I see the final product now. Alpinestars is one of the biggest motorsport companies in the world, and that’s not just because they’re building phenomenal product that their consumers love but it’s because they themselves truly love the product they are creating.
The people working there were incredibly friendly, passionate, and involved in the business, and made us feel incredibly at home. They shared their products with us like they were introducing us to their children, and in doing so instilled in us a new sense of appreciation for the gear that we already thought was wonderful.
Alpinestars is always innovating – that is without a doubt. But now that we’ve seen what is coming down the line from Alpinestars we’re more excited than ever to share this product with our customers and really emphasize that this brand is truly unique. This isn’t just gear that’s slapped together somewhere and sold to the lowest bidder, this is gear that has been built with love, passion, and true heart for the industry – and honestly that’s something that is worth all of us getting excited about.