From an Indestructible Puffer to 100-Year Pants, Vollebak Makes Clothes for the Future
While fashion brands often design their garments based on fleeting trends, twin brothers and athletes Nick and Steve Tidball create items for their menswear line, Vollebak, with a more certain future in mind: one that involves environmental threats and the continued exploration of space, and that may very well demand more from our clothing. Their participation in extreme sports—the pair has sprinted for hours across Africa’s Namib desert in 130-degree heat, completed a weeklong ultramarathon through the Amazon jungle, and run a 120-mile race over the Alps—regularly informs Vollebak’s designs, which take a markedly long view on clothes. Made using some of the most durable and cutting-edge materials on earth, its groundbreaking pieces are virtually indestructible, yet appear as pared-down essentials. All are created to protect and aid wearers as they make their way through the world’s ever-changing terrain.
Vollebak, a reference to a Flemish cycling term that means “going all out,” lives up to its name. Consider the Mars Jacket, an unassuming coat for space travelers complete with antigravity pockets for shifting gravitational fields, a ballistic nylon shell, and a vomit pocket made from 3D-printed nylon powder. (The Mars Pants, sold separately, complete the look.) Other designs respond to concerns of this planet. Released in the midst of the pandemic, in 2020, the Full Metal Jacket is made from fabric that is 65 percent copper, a material used for thousands of years as an infection-killing agent. While the garment isn’t meant to be used for protection against Covid-19 or other viruses, the Tidballs hope it serves as inspiration for everyday clothing that could. Equally forward-thinking is the Garbage Sweater, a nubby pullover made from recycled aramids—a class of heat-resistant synthetic fibers traditionally worn by firefighters and people working in aerospace and the military—that have been decommissioned due to wear and tear.
As winter grinds on, Vollebak’s body-warming garments, with their mind-blowing protection from the elements, might seem particularly attractive. Created in response to down outerwear’s vulnerability to tears, the Indestructible Puffer’s exterior is formed by Dyneema, a soft, denim-like material with a strength of up to 15 times that of steel. The coat’s filler, made from recycled plastic bottles and developed by thermal insulation experts in Milan, keeps its wearers warm in temperatures as low as minus-104 degrees Fahrenheit. Vollbak’s coziest option might be the elastic Ice Age Fleece, a hooded, recycled sheep’s wool jacket that recalls the feeling and second-skin–like performance of the animal hides worn by early humans. Other innovations include pants made to last 100 years, a solar-charged jacket, and an abrasion-resistant T-shirt made from 100,000 ceramic particles. (Those wanting to be the first to know about new releases can sign up for alerts on Vollebak’s website.)
The Tidballs see a silver lining to the difficulties that our collective future holds. “If you look at all of the most radical periods of change throughout history, some incredible innovations come out of them,” Steve told technology writer Om Malik on his podcast, The Om Show. By situating itself at the forefront of innovation in performance textiles and their construction, Vollebak’s clothes are on track to prepare humans for the next chapter.