From Freezing Oceans to Mountain Summits - Why Ventile Works
When it comes to LIVSN products, it’s all about the fabric, which is why we take our time to develop, source, and create fabrics that don’t feel amazing but also stand the test of time. Our design process values durability, versatility, and sustainability, and in our search, we stumbled upon our new favorite fabric—Ventile.
Made of 100% cotton, Ventile fits seamlessly into the LIVSN lineup. It’s no secret that our new Kickstarter campaign is just around the corner, and while we haven’t officially launched yet, it’s worth digging into the details to understand what makes this fabric so unique.
If you aren’t familiar with this historically famous fabric, then take some time to read below where we will explain where Ventile originates, the nitty-gritty technical details, and the bevy of benefits it brings for wearers.
The Venerable History of Ventile
In the midst of World War 2, the British were struggling with wartime supply shortages. Flax material was being tested as a fire hose liner primarily, and scientists at the Shirley Institute in Manchester were encouraged to develop and adopt the hardy material for other purposes. From this research came what we know as Ventile—a cotton fabric categorized by its long fibers densely woven together to protect the wearer from water and extreme temperatures.
The immediate use of Ventile went to protect Royal Air Force pilots. Tasked with escorting essential supply convoys, often pilots were forced to eject from their aircraft while over freezing oceans, where hypothermia would set in within minutes of exposure. After pilots were outfitted with Ventile immersion suits though, their survival rate skyrocketed by 80% as their opportunity for rescue increased to half an hour.
By 1943, the UK was mass-producing Ventile suits and sending them around the world.
Ventile’s usage continued to climb, however, and in 1953 Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay summited Mt. Everest for the first time in recorded history with the aid of Ventile clothing. When Sir Ralph Fieness transverse the Arctic along its north-south axis from 1979-1982 (another first for humanity), he did so wearing Ventile apparel as well. In the decades that followed, NATO adopted their usage as well for pilot protection while overseas.
The usage of Ventile ebbed and flowed in popularity for consumers. Due to its unique sourcing and high production time, it never became a true mainstay in the apparel industry, but when one takes a look at the technical details of Ventile, the appeal of this unique fabric becomes clear.
How and Why Ventile Works
What truly sets Ventile apart from other fabrics are its long-staple cotton fibers. These are woven in an especially tight manner, and when the fibers become wet, they swell and repel water. The more the fibers swell and increase in size, the more protective the wearer becomes from moisture.
While this does not make the fabric completely waterproof, it does give it a high level of water resistance while maintaining a surprising amount of breathability. When compared to laminated synthetics, Ventile has less shine, creates little to no sound, and has far more durability against abrasion and heat.
Now, there’s some debate and contention regarding the Ventile fabric in its modern incarnation. When PFC DWR sprays are used on the Ventile fibers, it strips them of their natural status. Along with being less environmentally mindful, this ultimately also damages the fibers. However, there now exists new coating sprays that help bead the water at the fabric's surface so the water sheds before it can soak, all without sacrificing the fabric's natural status.
The Versatile Benefits of Ventile
While no fabric is perfect, Ventile can play a wide variety of roles in both urban and natural environments and is one of the most durable apparel options you can find on the market.
Here are just a few of the useful benefits Ventile offers users:
High Thermal Insulation
In both aesthetics and usage, Ventile covers more case uses and lasts longer than standard synthetic alternatives. It naturally regulates the temperature of the weather in hot or cold climates, fends off wind and moisture with ease, and is surprisingly light given its durability.
Whether you simply like the look and feel of the fabric or plan to take it to the ends of the earth, Ventile can play numerous roles well. When properly cared for, apparel made from this fabric can last a lifetime.
Modern Views of Ventile
The largest barrier between Ventile and widespread use stems from cost and production time. It is a highly technical, dependable fabric, but there’s just one supplier of true Ventile, which now operates out of Switzerland.
Due to an involved production process and strict quality controls, Ventile does require significant time and resources to produce and purchase. However, when you factor in ideas like cost-per-use with its natural longevity and its minimal ecological impact, the value of Ventile becomes clear.
At LIVSN, we’re always looking to experiment and create quality products built to last a lifetime of adventure. Ventile is an intriguing fabric that fits the LIVSN values and goals like a glove, and we can’t wait to see how it performs in the field.
We’ll be officially unveiling and launching a Ventile-based product soon, so keep your eyes and ears out for our official announcement in the weeks to come.
In WWII, pilots could not `eject’ from their planes as you state. Ejection systems were not in large use. They `bailed out’. Opened the canopy, disconnected their harness, and either flipped the plan on its back and fell out or stood up into cockpit and jumped out.
Still have my first Ventile coat, Bobby brand, climbing style parka from England, 1960’s vintage. It is extremely good in cold and windy conditons. Fabric does wear through, especially at cuffs and hems, so it has been repaired with a nubuck suede trim. It is a double layer ventile. Does it breathe? Not as well as couple of the new laminates. Quiet? As noisy as any cotton. Feels good to the hand. Want to bust wet brush? Filson double tin is the ticket. Waxed cotton duck, stand the coat and pants in the corner at the end of the day and they’ll be ready tomorrow.