Santini Maglificio Sportivo, often referred to as Santini, is founded by Pietro Santini in 1965. It is one of the oldest cycling apparel brands in the world. Despite a lot of new cycling clothing brands popping up over the last fifteen years, Santini is still going strong today. For 2018, Santini is the official UCI clothing partner, they will be responsible for the Vuelta leader jerseys, and they are sponsoring several pro teams including UCI World-Tour team Trek-Sagfredo, and the women’s team Boels-Dolmans. In the fixed gear crit scene they supply Team Cinelli-Chrome with the kits and sponsor the 2016 Red Hook Criterium Series Champion Ash Duban. In opposition to most clothing brands, Santini produces their clothing in-house in their own factory just outside Bergamo, Italy. Just before Red Hook Criterium Milano No.8 we had the chance to visit the factory and learn more about the craft of cycling wear, the Santini brand and its long history in cycling.
Text & Photography: Brian Megens
It’s the Thursday before Red Hook Crit and we are on our way to Bergamo to visit the Santini Factory. The factory is located in a suburb of Bergamo, the big lettering on top of the factory leaves no uncertainty, this is the place where the legendary brand Santini produces their clothing lines. When entering the building you immediately see the big history that the brand has in cycling. The bike of legend Marco Pantani is being displayed along with several pro team and champion jerseys. Santini was founded in 1965 by Pietro, who up to today still is present in the office everyday. However, due to his age the company is now being led by his daughters, Monica and Paola.
We are welcomed by Paola Santini who is the marketing director at the company. We walk to a big room where all the new lines are being displayed. As we are in Italy, before sitting down we already have a coffee in our hands and we start talking about the fixed gear crit sport and the connection that Santini has with it. “A couple of weeks ago Ash Duban was here to design some kits. We cooperate very closely with Ash, she does some designs but also is our model for our new lines. Anyways, Ash walked into the designer office and saw an ‘old school’ Santini headband laying on a desk. She took it, put it on and immediately fell in love with it. She took it home and we honestly didn’t think much of it, but then we saw it back on the Red Hook Criterium Barcelona No.5 podium and it turned out to be quite an iconic photo. It is really cool to work so closely with athletes and see the results from that process” Paola says.
While we are enjoying our last sips of the coffee Pietro walks in to welcome us on his behalf too. Paola tells us that he is in the office almost on a daily base. “He always had the dream to become a professional cyclist, but when he realised he wasn’t going to make it he focussed on making the best clothing for the pros. That is also why we still have such a strong connection with the professional cycling world, our brand is born out of it. We are actually making our comeback on the highest pro lever, the UCI World Tour by partnering with team Trek-Sagfredo for 2018!”
Our empty coffee cups tell us that it is time to visit the production line, from designers office to the factory. Santini has an in-house team of designers working on both the Santini clothing lines as well as the custom lines for cycling teams, business, and more ordered from all over the world. When the designs are ready they are sent to the machines for printing. These paper prints are then brought to another machine which presses them on to the actual clothing panels. The last part of the production line is to stitch the panels together. As you can see there are a lot of different steps and although machines do a lot of work, most are still done by hand. As the brand is in existence for over 40 years, the factory and its employers became a very important part of local employability and the local economy. When we walk around on the work floor we see that the majority of the people operating the machines, doing the stitching, and preparing the shirts for shipping are women. Paola says “some of the people have been working at the factory for over 40 years, they basically started when the factory opened its doors and became like family to us.” Although no one can look into the future, “we hope to stay in Bergamo and keep this factory open for a long time and keep the Santini brand among the best cycling clothing brands in the world!”