Southern California residents who are also fans of the Dainese/AGV brands are likely familiar with the D-Store Orange County. One of three official full-fledged Dainese/AGV retail stores (the others being San Francisco and Chicago), what you might not have known is that the OC store, which is roughly equivalent to a large two-bedroom home, also housed Dainese’s North American headquarters for several years. Think about that – Dainese, known the world over as one of the finest motorcycle apparel companies, ran its North American operations in modest office space at the back of a retail store.
But those days are over. Now, nestled away in an unassuming building deep in a Costa Mesa, California industrial complex, Dainese North America has just opened a proper headquarters, complete with showroom and warehouse – one befitting a brand with such prestige as Dainese. With U.S. revenue more than doubling since 2010 and up ten-fold since 2000, “We have been growing in the United States,” says Roberto Sadowski, VP of Operations, “so it was time to step out of the D-Store. It was a move we have been planning for some time.”
Separating corporate from retail allows the D-Store to better utilize the space once used for office equipment. However, the D-Store represents the ultimate Dainese experience. One in which the brand would like spread beyond Orange County, San Francisco and Chicago. To do this, Dainese is rolling out three levels of retail support. The first is the D-Store, which many are familiar with. The all-inclusive brick-and-mortar space dedicated to all things Dainese. From there you have the D-Shop, which can embody a section of a larger dealership and focus on core products. Lastly, there’s the D-Corner. As the name implies, the D-Corner would simply inhabit a corner of a dealer’s retail space and showcase very specific products.
Dainese invited the MO staff to its new digs recently, where we got to tour the facility and learn a little more about both Dainese and AGV, and discover what’s to come. As the North American arm of Dainese Italy, the company currently employs 14 people (and three espresso machines). As a small company, 90% of U.S. orders are still filled direct from Italy’s massive and state-of-the-art automated warehouse (think Amazon for moto gear). Here, a leather suit can be ordered and delivered from Italy to California in as little as five days. The U.S. warehouse handles the remaining 10% of North American orders, and also handles warranty work for Dainese and AGV in both the U.S. and Canada.
During our visit, Dainese reps raised an interesting point concerning the future of safety apparel. Increasing regulations will start to become the norm, as Dainese (as well as other brands) is already designing gear to fully comply with CE standards. In fact, starting in 2015, full CE compliance will be compulsory for gear to be sold in France, a move which will likely trickle down to the rest of Europe (and possibly beyond).
Speaking of AGV, Dainese acquired the brand in 2007. With the acquisition, the duo are able to completely outfit a rider from head to toe – a claim no other apparel brand can make. AGV took this opportunity to show us three new models. Starting with the Corsa, the helmet is labeled as the “sidekick of the Pista,” AGV’s purebred racing helmet worn by folks like Rossi. Littered with neat features like an aerodynamic shape and extremely easy shield-change mechanism, it weighs a svelte 3.4 lbs.
Sport-touring riders might be interested in the Horizon helmet, which is claimed to sport a more comfortable interior, extended chinbar for less noise, and an integrated sun shield.
But maybe the most interesting new AGV is the $299.95 Numo EVO modular helmet. What struck us by surprise is the fact we couldn’t immediately tell it was a modular lid at first glance. Also, the gap between the chinbar and the forehead area of the helmet is very slim, creating less drag and noise than prior modulars. The design is slick and well executed. Further, the chinbar can be locked in the open position for those who like the breeze at a slower pace.
AGV says its shells are intermediate-oval shaped for the U.S. and European markets, while Asian markets receive a rounder shape. Specific U.S. regulations on helmets, and the particular head shape of Americans, means AGV sends U.S.-specific helmets to Costa Mesa, which then fulfills U.S. orders.
A few more factual nuggets:
– In order to keep costs down, Dainese’s gloves and textile apparel are made in Vietnam. All other products, however, are made in Italy or elsewhere in Europe.
– Significantly more duty charges are paid on textile gear than leather. To the tune of 27.7%.
– Dainese is well known for its racing gear, but the company sells more street gear than it does leathers.
– The Laguna Seca Evo jacket is the company’s best-selling leather jacket. It will soon be available with a waterproof liner.
– Revzilla and Sportbike Track Gear are Dainese’s two biggest online retailers.
– While motorcycles are the company’s biggest market, Dainese also is active in skiing, mountain biking, and now equine sports as well. Those markets add up to about 25% of sales in Europe, but sales on our shores are thus far negligible.
Jawa is coming back. Sort of.