"A great flame follows a little spark," wrote the great Italian poet Dante Alighieri. His country has proven over and over again that intimate, passion-driven designers and craftsmen can grow into robust enterprises whose business model remains true to their original spark.
So it is with Spidi of Vicenza. Situated between Milan and Venice, the town has produced its share of genius, including the great 16th Century architect Andrea Palladio (considered by some as the most influential figure in Western architecture) and writer Luigi Da Porto, upon whose original tale of Romeo and Juliet Shakespeare’s play was based.
Thirty years on, Spidi, revered in their day by legendary racers like Eddie Lawson and Freddie Spencer for their exquisite gloves, has evolved into the complete rider’s apparel manufacturer.
Spidi premium apparel is an outstanding match for the similarly named, but unaffiliated, Sidi boot company. Photograph by Cordero Studios/ www.corderostudios.com (Click image to enlarge)
With fewer than 50 employees, the company retains its ambiance of passion and intimacy, focusing its philosophy on constant improvements in its technology and esthetics, aiming for the discerning rider rather than mass appeal.
"With everything we manufacture, our goal is to become a leading light," says Alessandro Marcato, Spidi’s CEO. "Our objectives are based on three principles: comfort, design, and safety. The collaboration between the product manager and the designers, who are involved at every level of the process, creates the mix between function and esthetic."
Spidi, in fact, employs independent outside designers mandated to push the envelope and bring a competitive edge to the product line. "In Italy, to make a beautiful product is essential," he continues. "Motorcycling is more than a hobby; it is part of what is often a daily lifestyle." Anyone who has visited Italy will have noted the omnipresence of two-wheeled travelers and marveled at a culture that celebrates motorcycling in all its forms. "Motorcycle clothing must not only perform and be functional," Marcato says, "It must also look fashionable, on and off the bike." Marcato and many of the employees at Spidi are active motorcyclists, so this sensitivity is injected into everything they make. "We are our most demanding customers," he comments.
As a result, Spidi’s range of leather and fabric suits and gloves propose a uniquely cohesive system for the rider who appreciates superb quality and exceptional multi-functionality. With a series of snap-in thermal layers, integrated rain suits and waterproof fabrics, one can tour in a single Spidi outfit while your riding companions are constantly climbing in and out of their weather specific gear. And while the racing suits are prized—indeed, tested—by today’s stars like MotoGP rider Colin Edwards and Marco Melandri, Spidi does not rely on celebrity associations to communicate the value of its brand.
Instead, each garment addresses a rider’s specific riding habits and conditions. Varying grades and characteristics of leather answer the particular requirements of the hardcore racer, sport, touring or casual motorcyclist. Even the most demanding professional will recognize the rigorous attention to detail, materials and construction. For those of us whose skill set may relinquish us to being backmarkers on road and track, we can still lead in terms of style.
Close examination of Spidi apparel is a satisfying experience. The use of proprietary technologies such as Keramide, a fabric spun into the thread which has remarkable strength under tension, is but one of many such details. "Spidi has done exhaustive research on structural stress and points of stress," Bill Berroth, President of Motonation, Spidi’s US distributor, explains. "Keramide, for example, is superior to cotton thread. The company determined that using a number of leather panels rather than a single piece, provides superior performance and protection, and a Keramide thread allows us to execute that concept."Berroth reveals that many of Spidi’s manufacturing advances have their origins in materials used for the military. "The developments in body armor, abrasion-resistant fabrics, carbon fiber and so on, find their way, quite logically, into what Spidi makes." It is also clear that the Spidi look is inspired by the stylish tailoring that distinguishes the uniforms of Italy’s Carabinieri from peers in other countries.
Spidi has taken "best of breed" materials and re-engineered them to its own ends. "Materials are constantly changing, so we must be adaptable to that change," Alessandro Marcato emphasizes. "We have an advantage in that our region is home to some of the world’s top tanneries and fabric makers. Otherwise we would be stuck with the same cordura and leather people have been using for years."
This is evidenced in Spidi’s Step-In system, with breathable materials like H2Out that deliver both wind and rain resistance, and its incorporation of Neoprene into its cold weather liners. On the leather side, jackets like its R-Course offer stunning looks with practicality that is unequalled. Pockets inside and out abound, with snaps and zippers that have a reassuring firmness, body armor that enhances rather than exaggerates one’s silhouette, and a comfort as instantaneous as a second skin. Besides the ability to hook up with the matching leather pant, the R-Course’s Clip-Stop system attaches to one’s riding trouser of choice.
All of this, of course, comes at a premium. "We make no apologies for the price," adds Berroth. "But we’ve taken the position that our client is ready to invest in the best. They’ve usually done their homework, and they know the quality of what we offer. So our job is to create a relationship with them, make sure they get exactly what they want, and that it suits them perfectly. That’s why Spidi has become what we like to call a ‘legacy garment’. A Spidi jacket, suit or gloves is something you wear for years—and pass along to the next generation."
The only "downside" to a Spidi garment is, perhaps, that one may find himself enjoying one’s reflection as much as the ride itself. The humor in this does not escape Alessandro Marcato. After all, Spidi itself was named in a whimsical moment. Its emblem, a mischievous cat in a helmet and goggles, came from the proliferation of cats in Vicenza. "It can be said that Vicenza is a city of cats," he recounts, "And the name ‘Spidi’ is simply ‘speedy’ spelled in an Italian way." The fast cats of Vicenza may well be purring with that knowledge.