THE RUDY PROJECT PRODIGY
We caught up with Cristiano Barbazza, president of Rudy Project, during the launch of the Impact X2 at the Rudy Project Concept Store in Petaling Jaya. We took the opportunity to get inside the company philosophy and design innovation that is Rudy Project.
Cristiano Barbazza is a man who cares deeply about the things that matter to him. This was evident when he turned up at our dinner interview carrying a shopping bag with Lego in it. “Ok, now that I have taken care of the most important thing, Lego for my children, we can proceed with the other stuff,” he says with a laugh.
Cristiano, being the President of Rudy Project, is deeply involved with every aspect of the company. He makes the point that Rudy Project is still a family owned company, and the design process involves taking feedback and suggestions from their multitude of sponsored athletes, and using it to either incorporate design changes, or innovate new products, in the Rudy Project range of sports eyewear and helmets.
Cristiano talks about the beginnings of Rudy Project. “I was involved with Rudy Project since day one. I was a young kid then, 16 years old, and my father had the idea of doing eyewear for sportsmen. Back then, there was no specific eyewear for sports. At the time, my father was working for another job, so he asked me to help out. I went out and bought a computer, and I was given a price list. So with the computer and a printer, we got started.
“It was a small office at the very beginning, it was just me and another employee that we hired for the invoicing and commercial things, then the business boomed that we had to move to where we are today with the warehouse and everything.”
Initially, Rudy Project was not meant to be an actual business. “Back at that time, there were lots of glasses and polycarbonate lenses were quite a new thing, although the shape was nothing special. The feedback was why don’t you give us something cool, why don’t you give us something lighter or with adjustability?
This pushed us to think; there might be some real business here,” says Cristiano.
In 1986, Rudy Project stepped into the public eye when Moreno Argentin of Italy won the UCI Men’s World Road Racing Championships in Colorado Springs. Moreno won wearing Rudy Project eyewear, and it attracted a lot of attention. As Cristiano explains, “It was such a big thing, because 99% of the riders were not wearing eyewear. It was quite an explosion of business at our end that we couldn’t really cope with the demand at the time.”
MADE WITH PRIDE
Born and bred in Italy, Rudy Project is also proud that their eyewear is designed and manufactured in their home country. “We have always made our eyewear in Italy. The way we do things in Italy, we really care. I don’t want to say we do things one by one, like in the artisanal way. We have mass production, of course, but we put a lot of attention into the details, even things like the shape of the screw,” says Cristiano.
Asked about upcoming developments for new products in the Rudy Project range, Cristiano declines to comment, with laughter around the table. “Of course, I cannot tell you about that, I am sorry, but we will present some really revolutionary products in the coming years; we’re working on that. We will have some terrific helmets coming, some really beautiful designs. We are always looking to elevate the performance of the athlete. We always innovate, that is our task.”