IN A DARK room in an inconspicuous building on an Italian industrial estate exists a collection of colourful, scuffed leathers – more than 500 in fact – lined up neatly in no apparent order.
An antiquated biking wardrobe to outsiders, but to the motorcyclists assembled it’s a treasure trove, a Pandora’s Box of racing heritage. Or as Dainese call it themselves, 'La Foresta Delle Tute' - 'The Forest of Leathers'.
For here hang the suits of the motorcycling greats. From Foggy to Rossi, Sheene to Simoncelli, if they’ve worn, and subsequently crashed in Dainese, chances are that garm features in the manufacturer’s new Archivio. QR codes are in the process of being attached to each hanger, enabling future visitors to find out each suit’s backstory.
A concept three years in the making, the Archivio is a living, breathing tribute to Dainese’s heritage. And Dainese Group CEO Cristiano Silei is keen to stress that it is not a museum.
“The Archivio is a living thing,” he told me at the official launch last week. “It’s not a museum, that’s why we don’t call it such, it’s called the Archivio and as we grow the Archivio will evolve to show whatever’s going on with the company.”
And what is going on with the company is very impressive. The brand may have been built on motorcycle protection, but its offerings today are far more comprehensive. From downhill ski racing to space exploration, Dainese has its fingers in many pies indeed.
The Archivio proudly displays all of that. Surrounding the dark leather room is a gallery of historically important Dainese items, from the very first pair of motocross trousers designed by founder Lino on a newspaper dated December 24th 1971 to the space suit worn by Thomas Pesquet on the six-month Proxima mission to the international space station in 2016. And in typical Dainese fashion, it's effortlessly cool.
Ski protection worn in world championship races lines up alongside Dainese D-Air Lab, which is designed to protect industrial workers operating at heights in case of a fall.
But the focal point of the Archivio is very much motorcycling. The story of Dainese’s origins – a 3,335km road trip taken by three friends – Mario, Franco and Lino in 1968 welcomes the visitor into the fold, telling how the exploration and passion of this journey inspired Lino to found his namesake company.
A selection of the most historically important leathers sit in display cases along one wall, starting with Giacomo Agostini and spanning decades to Rossi’s Moviestar Yamaha suit. Championship winning bikes of both men bookend the display, and both were in attendance at the Archivio’s launch last week.
Dedicated sections pay homage to the TT and the Dakar, with Guy Martin’s 2010 TT fireball crash suit spread eagled on the wall. Also among the 20 individual displays are information sections on gloves, kneesliders and boots.
A display of back protectors tells how designer Marc Sadler took inspiration from nature – first tortoises and later armadillos and lobsters – when he designed the world’s first such device in 1978. The protector worn by Max Biaggi at the 1994 Assen TT takes pride of place here.
A quote from Sadler accompanying the display reads: “Looking at ancient armour and even more so that of the animal kingdom (with its millions of years of experience), it was clear that the trick to protecting the backbone lay in discharging the impact forces into the bands of muscle on either side.”
On the other side of the room is an interactive display of the D-Air system – motorcycle airbags are another invention of Dainese. From the original concept to the fine tuned unit worn by thousands of racers and road riders alike, the display shows exactly why Dainese are at the forefront of motorcycle safety.
Every item in the Archivio has been handpicked by Lino himself, creating the overwhelming impression of a passionately curated gallery. And despite occupying just 900 square metres, the Archivio gives a beautifully rounded view of Dainese’s incredibly rich history and relentless innovation.
“There’s nothing like this in the industry,” Silei commented. “We are leading in the industry, as always, and we are very proud of the Archivio.
“Dainese has invented a big chunk of this industry and every single innovation in motorcycle safety, apart from the helmet, comes from Dainese. From the back protector to the composite gloves and the sliders, the aerodynamic hump, the airbag, it all comes from Dainese. Not everybody knows that. I think this is a wonderful way to tell the story behind Dainese and AGV, the other brand of the family.”
And now Dainese has opened the doors on its heritage to the public, what’s next?
“We will make it easier for people to come and visit the headquarters in Mulvenaso they get a sense of how people work there, how the suits are custom made and the craftsmanship that goes behind it, I think that is the next stop,” concluded Silei.
There you have it. Dainese is opening its doors, folk, and just you wait till you see what’s inside.
The Dainese Archivio will open to the general public on July 27th, and is housed at Dainese’s Vincenze HQ. For more information, click here.