By Giulia Boccola
Photo Silvia Galliani
By Giulia Boccola
Photo Silvia Galliani
Young, nice and super dynamic. We met Luca Gentile and Piergiorgio Catalano, the founders of Alba Optics, an Italian company that has managed to make itself known all over the world in a couple of years.
Proud of their products totally Made in Italy, they focus on quality and attention for every little detail. Passionate about cycling, outdoor sports and nature, they believe in a product that can combine performance but also of quality of life. Creativity and desire to do are the basis of their project.
Who are the founders of Alba Optics?
We’ve always been friends, a bond that was born 20 years ago within the walls of a surf shop in Milan. At the time, we only thought about selling while waiting for the weekend to go skiing in the mountains. After our studies, each of us took different paths, Piergiorgio became a producer and Luca a designer, but we have always remained best buddies.
When was the idea of this project born?
About 4 years ago. Luca was having an exhibition of one of his project at a fair in the area dedicated to two wheels and we noticed a stall selling an old stock of cycling glasses from the 1980s. They were aesthetically fascinating but made with low quality materials. So we decided to combine our skills in a project related to a product. We worked at nights, on weekends, sacrificing free hours for a couple of years and then dedicated ourselves to it full time. 2019 was our true zero year.
What is your corporate identity?
Initially we got inspired by a model of the past and decide to propose it in a modern key. So after some research, we found a local producer who resurrected an original mold from the 80s now forgotten. After designing the lens and testing the various prototypes up to the final version, our first model was born: the Delta. Over time Alba Optics has evolved into a real eyewear brand with a more complex and complete collection.
What are you inspired by when you design glasses?
We listen to the needs of every athlete with whom we speak, of every gender and age. We develop them thinking of a product that can satisfy people. Our collection follows a precise range of offers and types. We have few but specific models for the use they are intended for. We like to take inspiration from the world of art and design, from the trends of the past, we love rummaging through the memorabilia of the Italian history of sport and cycling. We often follow our instincts and we like to shuffle the cards on the table while maintaining a certain image identity. We are like a starred restaurant, few dishes, only one chef.
What about your values?
Passion and research, attention to every detail and to the quality of the products and how they are made. Nothing is left to chance, each piece is conceived, designed and manufactured exactly as we want it to be. We postponed several releases just because the final result did not convince us. We don’t want to have any regrets or think we could have done better. We remove all the superfluous things in order to make the best of what remains and every part of the product or stylistic choice must have its own motivation. Our motto is summed up in a phrase by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, a point of reference for many architects and designers: Less is more.
Who is Alba Optics dedicated to?
To the sportsman who does not necessarily want to finish first, but to reach any goal he wants, in any condition. The tagline was born for fun “Alba Optics doesn’t make you faster” but it summarizes our whole philosophy. The model that best represents us is definitely the Delta, our Stratocaster. It was the first one, the most transversal and iconic of the collection.
What does the word outdoor mean to you?
Twenty years ago it was the difference between freestyle and freeride, today’s outdoor is for us the fusion of these two terms.
What did this forced lockdown period mean for you?
At the beginning it was a shock. Living in the most affected area of Europe and finding yourself in a forced lockdown overnight and with an invisible enemy to fight was not easy at all. The summer season had not yet started and for a small company like ours there were several moments of anxiety and despair. But after a first moment of discomfort we rolled up our sleeves and pressed even more on the accelerator. We created virtual tours with our best athletes involving various communities. We launched new products that were already on the calendar, without fear, confirming the productions. We focused only on the essentials, on the necessary needs. This is what it takes to survive. All the superfluous and harmful must be eliminated, it only makes us waste time.
What strategies are you implementing to face this difficult moment?
We have enhanced the sales and the online platform but also tried to bring out new models in line with the timings of our retailers, sometimes anticipating the colors and models. We want our dealers to feel protected by our company and considered as a fundamental part of our project. For this reason you will never find our products in large online sales chains.
New plans for the future regarding technologies and sustainability?
Sustainability does not always go hand in hand with a good user experience. Let me explain. Our glasses could be sold inside an organic cotton bag and shipped just like that. The impact will be low but it will also mean an unsatisfactory user experience, which due to the expectation on our products, would probably remain very bitter. We try to maintain a certain balance, offering the best in terms of design and research but being careful to minimize waste, the use of plastic and other unnecessary polluting materials. We produce everything in Italy and we are proud of this. We prefer to maintain a certain craftsmanship and control over the product, rather than go for an Asian industrialization that would undoubtedly compromise the quality.
Can you reveal us something about a new product?
Ice and dust will be the two elements we will work on in the next few months.
The bike trip you will never forget?
Last year we had the opportunity to take two days off to reach Chiavari from Milan. It was short but intense, an excellent memory. Traveling by bike, carrying only the essentials with you and freeing your mind for a few days from everyday worries is a very rewarding practice.
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