The inspiration behind a collection
Words: Miriam Terruzzi
Images: Kristof Ramon
When the vision of an iconic champion and the avant-garde experience of a Digital Native Vertical Brand (DNVB) meet.
he Boonenberg collection was born from the dream of creating a small team of excellence around the creation of a high-end product.
Giuliano Ragazzi - CEO & Founder of La Passione - has combined the technical knowledge of his Head of Product and the racing experience of an authentic cycling icon into one ambitious project. The result is what could be defined as an intense experience with the bicycle, the possibility to enjoy cycling without constraints, in direct contact with the sport, the nature, the challenge.
Literally the name Taaienberg means "hard hill" and it's easy to understand why. This narrow stretch of about five hundred meters in Flemish pavé is a real leg grinder. The road goes uphill to peaks at a gradient of between 12% to 14%.
The fact that it was Tom Boonen's favorite spot for launching his incredible attacks led fans to nickname it Boonenberg. A place that absorbed the cycling legend and became, over time, a hangout where they waited for the trigger that would set the race alight, that instant.
A tunnel of scrubland envelops the road and, like so many iconic places in the sport, from the outside it doesn't look like anything special, were it is not so easy to imagine the screams in the silence and the smell of beer being spilled on the lawns, during the long waits of the race. At the top, when the slope seems to hurt less, the view of the countryside suddenly opens up, with the sweetness of the landscape paintings of this corner of the country. But everyone knows that a rider has no time to look at anything while attacking, they only think about detaching the pursuers, going farther, widening the gap. Suffer, suffer, suffer.
"Many people ask me to tell my story about the Taaienberg. Why did I always attack there? It's simply a strategic point, one of the best hellingen we have in Belgium."
The winning match
The capsule collection dedicated to Tom Boonen was created from the idea of combining the heritage of professional cycling with the expertise of a clothing brand. The vision of a passionate Founder, the knowledge of a Head of Product and the unquestionable experience of a champion gave birth to the Boonenberg, meticulously designed for the needs of those who, in the race, want only the best.
"La Passione's mission has always been to offer customers a comfortable yet elegant product that meets the true needs of those who spend many hours on the saddle," explains Giuliano Ragazzi CEO & Founder of the Direct-to-Consumer brand. "So it was an honor to share the dream of creating something with Tom Boonen that was absolutely performance oriented, in line with what a professional cyclist expects from clothing. To do so, we had no choice but to rely on the long history of a champion like him, who has tested the most hostile terrain in the sport - from the bumpy cobblestones of the Arenberg Forest to the narrow, unforgiving Geraardsbergen. The result is a unique product with a distinctive racing edge, beautifully signed by Boonen himself, something our community has probably been waiting for and we've finally been able to deliver."
The collection, which consists of two Bib Shorts and two Jerseys, is focused on achieving a perfect balance between comfort and performance, through the most advanced technology. The link that unites Tom Boonen to the Classics of the North is sanctioned by exclusive details such as the elastic "Cobble Grip" that evokes the legendary cobbled sections in its construction and has been realized to guarantee the correct stability and elasticity of the garment. Both outfits were rigorously tested by Tom so that they could offer high performance, resistance to stress and absolute freedom of movement.
"Working with Tom on the development of this collection was truly inspiring," explains Alberto Bianchi, Head of Product at La Passione. "We carried out a comprehensive study of all the issues that riders have to deal with when wearing cycling apparel. Thanks to this research and Tom's valuable advice, we worked on differentiated fabric designs to reduce weight, increase breathability and improve pedalling fluidity as well as adopting small smart solutions that benefit comfort such as cobble grip, a specific construction that allows to optimize elastic resistance."
Tom Boonen's breathtaking actions inspired this collection from the very first sketch.
It's a product that speaks to the public in a direct and effective way, exactly like one of his epic attacks, something with timeless appeal, modern and at the same time everlasting.
The mix of technology and romanticism that makes cycling a unique sport is being turned into more exclusive garments here than ever before, created to make you feel like you're always in the race and you get to experience something you've never experienced in the saddle before.
"Clothing is one of the most important - if not the most important - thing for a cyclist,"
commented Tom Boonen.
"When you're a racer, it's frustrating to spend the hours before a race, on the bus, in total chaos, wondering what will be the best thing to wear because it might be too cold, or too hot, or it will probably rain. When preparing for a big competition, all you can think about is keeping your mind focused on the goal, your mind needs peace of mind.
That's why, when the folks at La Passione contacted me to ask me to work together on developing something beautiful and unique, where I could collaborate personally - give advice, use my own riding experience - I immediately thought it was the right time for something I've been wanting to do for a long time. Being comfortable is key when we talk about cycling apparel, especially if you're on the bike for a long time. Today, the real luxury is being able to dictate style without sacrificing comfort."