Eat My Words: The Oakley Thunderdome

Among my favorite pieces to write are the Space Shot stories for Fast Company, in which I get to infiltrate some corporate headquarters and get the lowdown on a company’s quirky work culture. For this particular assignment to visit Oakley‘s headquarters, however, I especially felt like an undercover operative. I started contacting them a year ago for a tour, only to be gently but firmly rebuffed by their gatekeepers. Turns out they were in the midst of a gigantic, $2.1 billion buyout by Luxottica, the Italian eyewear company that manufactures their biggest competition, Ray Ban. When the sale was complete, I was granted access, and a few weeks later, I stepped into the room you see to your the right. Yep, that’s where the super-tan, super-friendly Oakley employees get to, like, go hang out every day.

And you can go there, too. Along with a retail store, there’s a customer service center located in this hall (behind blast door #2, of course). If you’re looking for a more intense immersion, take the tour, which begins with a totally extreme video in a theater that looks like it was salvaged from the set of Star Wars, and then winds through an Oakley museum, where you’ll see the infamous fluorescent “blades” you’ll remember from the 80’s. I thought their ads were so cool back then, I used to cut them out of SKI Magazine and plaster them to my closet wall.

You can read my story about “Oakley’s Optical Illusion” in this month’s Fast Company. And be sure check out the slideshow of fantastic photos by Dwight Eschliman, who has managed to shoot the space with all the drama of a sci-fi action flick. It’s Battlestar Galactica: Orange County.

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