Team KATUSHA ALPECIN rider Ian Boswell had the chance to tour the OAKLEY headquarters in Foothill Ranch, California, USA, a few weeks ago, and came away impressed with his six hours on site of the iconic eyewear brand.
Boswell: “I’ve been in OAKLEY glasses since I was around 14 when I won a national championship so it felt somewhat satisfying to be able to visit their facility and see why they are at the front of the pack in terms of eyewear and helmets. They are a very bold company in terms of their ideas and marketing.” Boswell noted that even their building was futuristic and galactical-looking.
Ian Boswell: “I was there for a good six hours and I was busy. I was walked through with the history of the brand and also where it’s going. I was able to have sneak peaks of some future glasses and I can’t say more than that, except to say they are not afraid to be innovative and creative.”
Ian’s day involved more than just talking about eyewear, it also included hands-on testing to see how the product he wears every day in training holds up and why.
Boswell: “We tested some glasses, we smashed some glasses, we compared results to other rival brands. We shot a marble gun at glasses at several hundred miles per hour and all the glasses failed except for OAKLEY. This was important as we talked about impact and the way a lens can shatter and splinter and cause damage to your eye. OAKLEY didn’t do that, which is why militaries around the world use their eyewear.”
“I went into a 3-D scan room where they made a scan of my head,” Boswell continued. “They do this with a variety of athletes. Then they print the model and use those to develop more information on different head shapes for different fits of helmets and glasses. They don’t spare any expense in continuing to expand and improve their products. We also did some tests with lasers to show the optics of OAKLEY and how other brands can distort your vision whereas OAKLEYS intend to enhance your vision.”
Part of the day’s tour included sitting down with members of the Visual Performance Laboratory team, as well as with the helmet development and marketing team to ask Ian’s opinion on glasses and helmets: “I was impressed with their willingness to listen to my feedback. We sat at a round table for a good hour and discussed helmet fit and glasses and the partnership between helmets and glasses. They are always pushing forward, never content with where they are, but instead always seeking to improve their product. This was awesome to see, because they are such a big and reputable brand but they still haven’t lost their drive to move forward. It was cool to feel that my opinion mattered. Sure, I’m a professional athlete, but I’m not a big, famous cyclist; yet they still seemed willing to talk through my opinion with maybe a crew of 15 people all asking me questions regarding their area of development. I felt I was part of the brand being there.”
Research and development, as well as marketing, is all well and good and can be quite showy, but what about the nuts and bolts of the operation – the assembling of the glasses themselves?
Boswell: “We walked through the factory also, and all of the lenses are made there, plus a lot of the frames. It was cool to walk back there and see the employees assembling them. They are almost all made in the USA so they can control it – some metal frames are made in Italy but the rest are made there in the factory right where I was. 95% or more of their glasses are produced there. I think there were more than 1000 people working – 200 in marketing, research and development, and administration, then another 800 in the factory, assembling the glasses by hand, inspecting them, preparing the product to go to market. I even got to have lunch in their cafeteria – I had some good tacos, which is always important on a trip to California.”
It was a one-day out-and-back from the east coast to the west coast for Ian Boswell as he continues to improve from a serious cycling accident a few months ago, but it gave the American rider a chance to be part of the team as he recovers. Everything about it was a good day for the newly-married Boswell:
“I’ve always been a fan of OAKLEY, but going to their headquarters really made me a life-long supporter of their products and brand.”