Tech Gallery – A visit to the Assos clothing factory in Lugano, Switzerland
After spending three frantic days on the Eurobike show floor in Germany, my VeloNews cohorts and I drove south and spent a day riding in Italy before returning north for departure. Along the way we stopped in Lugano, Switzerland, to visit Assos’s new clothing concept showroom. Located in downtown Lugano right on the lake, their marketing material calls it “The Assos Experience Superstore.” Once you’ve stepped inside, it’s hard to disagree.
The store is called “manga.Yio,” which is a made-up word that means nothing in any language. But in Assos-speak, it refers to Level 13, “the ultimate dimension of inner balance.” The Assos catalogue refers to birth as level zero, knowledge as level four, wisdom as five, and so on up to level 13. Manga.Yio is like nirvana for cyclists, a state of being in which a perfect ride melds with life to create a sort of ultimate fulfillment in pedaling.
Sure, it’s Assos shamelessly self-aggrandizing. And it’s a little laughable with the pseudo-mystical enlightenment concept, but Assos as a company is nothing if not bold. Founder Tony Maier takes credit (rightfully, as far as we know) for building the first carbon fiber bike in Europe and pioneering the use of Lycra in cycling clothing. Since then his Swiss company has built a brand around ultra-premium, highly tailored cycling clothing with distinctively Spartan but timeless styling.
The problem is that manga.Yio works. The rooms are spacious, clean, well-lit, and angular, with Assos logos and design themes everywhere. It’s not unlike an Apple store, if not an art gallery, in execution. All the clothing is displayed so attractively and artfully that before you know it, you’ve swallowed gallons of Kool-Aid. Suddenly $360 for a pair of bib shorts sounds perfectly reasonable, even a bargain.
It’s not a bargain, far from it. In the cold light of day, Assos clothing is among the most expensive on Earth. On the other hand, it feels very fine to wear. I’d even go so far as to call it exquisite. I’m not going to lie — I couldn’t afford wearing Assos on a regular basis. But I bought (yes, with my own cash money) one outfit on sale because I was there. It’s really sweet.
Back in the September 2009 issue of VeloNews magazine, we covered the history of Assos and its modern operation. There’s no need to revisit the topic. However the store itself was fun to explore and we thought you might like a photographic tour.
In a few days, look for part two: a virtual tour of their design and prototyping studio located about 15 minutes from downtown Lugano.