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Santini Clothing: How To Make Pro Kit

On my recent Giro di PEZ, I spent some quality time with the folks at Santini SMS in Bergamo – long time creators of top-line cycling kit for pro teams, the UCI jerseys, the Giro d’Italia, and a ton of amateur teams and clubs everywhere. So just how do they make custom kit in their Italian factory? Here’s a closer look…

The Santini company was founded by Pietro Santini in 1965, making them one the oldest established makers of cycling clothing. But on this day I was more interested in a tour if their factory, to finally see how they actually get all those wild graphics and pelotonic colours onto a cycling jersey and shorts.

See that blue logo on Paulo’s right chest
– that’s Santini SMS brand.

Getting There Is Half The Fun
The beauty of a trip to Italy is that, it’s easy to combine business with pleasure, especially when cycling is both your business and your pleasure. After I set Mrs. Pez loose for a morning of shopping in Milan, it took me only minutes to exit the city and promptly get lost at the autostrada connector. After 5 laps circling the round-about, and a few ill–advised shortcuts (thank god this is Italy – where creative navigating is expected), I was blasting along the A4 at about 160kmh.

At these speeds, Bergamo is only a half hour northeast of Milan, and since I used to live in this very cool city of 125,000, finding Santini was easy – a rarity in a country that has streets that are often too narrow for a regular sized car to pass through!

Located a short drive from Milano, in the cycling-rich region around Bergamo, the whole Santini operation takes place behind these walls.

So, How Do They Make Custom Kit Anyway?
The whole process starts with the graphic designs for each teams kit. Santini has 2 full time designers who work with the all the customers – from pro teams to custom orders for clubs – basically fitting an original design onto Santini’s many templates that eventually become a part of each garment. Of course everything is done on computer…

Each design is printed onto giant rolls of special paper that will be used to transfer to the designs and colors onto the material in the sublimation process. Note that each panel of the garment is printed separately, and each sheet is used only once, so if you’re club orders 100 jerseys, that’s 100 pieces of printing here.

About 40 people work in the main production area, which is set up as a classic production line. Each garment is touched on by almost every person in the line, each performing a different task.

The individual pieces that get sewn together to become a jersey or shorts, first must be cut out of huge pieces of material (ie”lycra, nylon, etc.) The actual cutting of the material is controlled by Santini’s super-computers. You can see on the screen the shapes of various parts of a jersey, which will be individually cut from huge sheets of material on the adjacent machine.

Huge sheets of material are laid out, to be cut by a giant computerized slicer – see below….

This machine cuts through several layers of material, and is programmed to slice out individual panels for all the sizes of garments.

Once the pieces of each garment are cut, they’re made ready for sublimating. These are sleeve panels about to be “baked” with color.

Just one of the famous teams whose kit is made by Santini.

Sublimation in action. The uncolored material is laid onto the colored printing sheets, then basically heated with a giant iron that causes the inks to transfer from the paper into the lycra. Voila – you got custom colored fabric!

Got Thread? The ESSENTIAL ingredient…

The smaller logos on arm warmers and tights are sublimated individually here.

Chamois are pinned into place, before the next step where…

An actual person sews the chamois into each pair of shorts.

An entire warehouse is used to store rolls of material for later use.

And there you have it. See how PezCycling is a lot more than just fun – it’s educational too! So next time you’re wondering how a pro kit turned out looking as cool – or ugly as the designer imagined – you’ll know ‘cause you read it here!

Fort more info on Santini’s Custom Kit programs, contact Doug at the Bicycling Hub.

Or email ‘em at [email protected].

Check out the Santini Website https://www.santinisms.it/.

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