ALBA OPTICS: where the past shapes the future

Author: clodagh norton

Interview of the Month
April 04, 2022

Piergiorgio Catalano (left) and Luca Gentile (right), Co-founders, Alba Optics

Alba Optics from Italy has positioned itself as a specialist in high-tech eyewear - inspired and designed after the icons of the past. Co-founder Piergiorgio Catalano described the concept and new collection for 2022.

Q:  Alba Optics specialises in products which marry quality design and high performance. Can you further explain your endeavours with the collection, and explain its focus for specific sports like cycling.

A: There is a lot of nostalgia in what we do, looking to the past to shape the future so to speak. Perhaps “timeless” or “iconic” are overused words when it comes to design, but for Luca (co-founder) and I, our products serve as both a meeting point and a conversation of memories and ideas. In cycling there is a lot of history, the sport is steeped in nostalgia. We’re Italian, so a little bit romantic in that way. From a design perspective, each model has a soul. Some hardcore cycling fanatics can probably pinpoint the reference, but in reality it’s not as simple as taking a vintage frame and recreating it. Working closely with our factory in Northern Italy to perfect the quality and details, we spend several months developing a new design. It’s a long process of multiple prototypes, wearer trials, athlete and retailer feedback before we release the final product to the public. While new technologies apply to the materials we use, the way our sunglasses are made (individually hand crafted) is quite old school. Something we very much pride ourselves on.

Q: When and where did it all begin?

A: We began our research 4 years ago in late 2017. Luca and I both had full time jobs in other industries when we started Alba Optics. We knocked on the doors of many artisans in Northern Italy to find vintage sports frames that felt right for us. Not long after, the DELTA was born and launched with overwhelming success. We knew at that point we had to quit our respective (safe and secure) jobs and focus all our attention on building the company, nurturing community and expanding the collection.

\\ Alba Optics: Delta glasses, inspired by the 1980s and 90s

Q: As co-founder, do you have a personal passion for cycling and outdoors activities that led you to this line of work?

A: I’m what you’d call an “occasional cyclist” and the weekend is when I’m able to hit the road. Living in Northern Italy we’re spoilt for choice and surrounded by incredible cycling routes. From Liguria to the Swiss border, it’s a cyclist’s haven. Camping is another hobby of mine. Spending time with my young family in the great outdoors is a fantastic way to holiday and it keeps us humble.

Q: Alba Optics' products are made in Italy and have a clear focus on new technologies. Tell us more?

A: For any athlete you’re going to be looking to a few key factors when choosing eyewear: comfortability, durability, efficiency and protection.
A lot of these qualities come down to the materials we use. For the majority of our frames we use Tr90 as it’s lightweight, durable and flexible. It’s allowed us to develop products that are incredibly functional, withstanding daily wear in a variety of conditions: different climates, long rides, fast rides, training, racing, and in some extreme cases… crashes.
For our lenses we’ve developed VZUM™ high definition sun lenses. Made from a durable ultra-light polycarbonate, our focus is to guarantee vision improvement, offering UV and blue light protection, and reducing superficial damage. Working closely with our athletes, every season we look at our lens collection to ensure the range covers (quite literally) all terrains. I’ll give you an example, our sunglasses must perform equally for an endurance rider in hot, dry and desert-like conditions, as they do for a mountain biker in a canopied forest of pine trees, ankle deep in mud. It’s an exciting and rewarding challenge we embrace every season.

\\ Tech styles by Alba Optics

Q: In 2022, you are launching new products and new lenses. Can you give us an overview of these new additions to the collection?

A: This year, three new key products will be launched: The SOLO.02, a modified version of our signature model with fixed temple tips and new frame colours.The ANVMA LEI, a casual eyewear staple for our female audience. And finally the MANTRA, an exciting new frame and lens shape inspired by speed.

 We are also introducing some new coloured mirrored lenses with photochromatic qualities, as per the feedback of our athletes who compete in a wide range of environments. At the end of the day it doesn’t come down to trends, but very much the needs of our community.

Q: Is the brand currently present across Europe and further afield? Please give us some details about your distribution and network.

A: We have some fantastic people on the ground spreading the good word of Alba Optics and over the past year have expanded our stockists to include Europe, the USA, Canada, Ecuador, Asia, Australia, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Panama and Qatar. Because the majority of these retailers are cycling shops and we share in that same passion, quite often our buyers make the pilgrimage to Northern Italy to enjoy our roads, take part in local events, festivals and races. It’s such a pleasure to welcome them to our studio and spend an afternoon drinking espresso and talking shop.

Q: Will you attend MIDO and what are your plans there?

A: Yes! We are very excited to bring a taste of Alba Optics to the MIDO stage. A true celebration of cycling culture, outdoor sport and nature. Of course we want to showcase the collection, but so much of what we’ve built over these past 4 years is based on friendships, old and new. As they say, a stranger is just a friend you haven't met yet.

Q: Comment on your other projects such as social activities for 2022.

A: Like the rest of the world, it feels like we’re still playing catch up with our calendar from 2020! One of our goals for this year is to host a number of international social rides, it will be amazing to bring folks together finally. We’re also in the process of planning sponsored rides as part of our ANVMA Routes campaign, featuring Alba Optics ambassadors riding solo across some of the planet’s most isolated landscapes. Our TAG LINES go like this: Alba means new life. Gone is the time when athletes used to wake up and begin working hard to achieve a goal. Alba is a natural phenomenon that traces the path, it is the light after dark. We believe it’s time for a new type of eyewear, that speaks of performance and results, but also the quality of life. The goal is not to finish first, but to get wherever you want, in any condition.

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