INTRODUCTION - DEVELOPMENT PHASE
Thermal jackets are the most fun to create, yet they place the greatest demands on us as a company. There’s more detail and multiple layers of performance fabrics to decide upon and assess. The demands are higher, so your product design thought processes are pushed harder and the opportunities to innovate are greater. They’re a challenge. Which is fun.
This also means the research & development phases are longer. Wearing trials are more intense and the various samples and improvements of each design mean far greater upfront expense. Thus, we launched the Ventile Thermal Field Jacket and the Thermal Military Parka knowing they had to do well. The cost to a small business of an intense development period, let alone committing to buy the materials, creates pressure. So when both our new thermal jackets started selling fast by pre-order, it was a joy, and a huge relief!
I nervously anticipate each sample before it arrives at the office. This is the proof of the pudding. Did we get it right on paper? I can remember the nerves as I opened the first sample box containing of the Ventile Thermal. I also remember the joy, madly texting Ozzy (production), Simon (development), Jason (best mate & mentor) and Emmalou (co-founder, wife!) “The Ventile, we f***ing nailed it! YESSS!” Then an excited flurry of images “Look, this is perfect” then “The fit on this collar is too loose, there’s a gap at the chin too, raise the front 1cm” “Can we bond wool onto the placket [the large flap that covers the front zip] instead of moleskin?”
The Ventile Thermal Field Jacket comes in Blaze orange or a very Dark Navy, almost black in fact
Most design changes are evident to me immediately. I’ve designed the jacket in my head for many months; years even. I know what I want and I have clear rules about how FRAHM jackets must work and look. It starts with ‘Tough’ and ‘Beautiful’ and expands from there. But I let it all settle, the texts stop, and I start wearing. Washing. Wearing. Moving. Scrapping. Lifting. Sitting. Asking. Washing. Pushing the development sample hard to see it’s limits, making notes as I go.
Eventually, minor niggles become intolerable. Wants become needs. Loves stays loves. I’m now clear how to feedback and iterate. I list anything from 7 (a simple workshirt) to maybe 53 (a thermal jacket) individual changes. Simon changes the Tech Pack (that’s the C.A.D. file and a listing of every single element, from stitch to snap to cuff lining). Then we go again.
Samples are very costly, as skilled people must down tools to move to a sample room and create one jacket, not 100 (or even 10,000+ for other brands). It’s insanely inefficient, so we pay for this. The sampling & testing process is a real investment for us. Let’s pay now, so that we have a jacket you’ll love, that beats the others, that will last years and years, that we make once a year, for years.
We invest in our styles, so that you will feel confident investing in them.
I knew the Ventile Thermal Field was a winner from day 1. We cooed over it like a new baby, more so than ever. It was my favourite ever design. Was?…
It's hard to have favourites when they're all my babies, but... This parka, I've never been prouder. Don't tell the others
After more sampling of any other design I’ve done in my career, the final Thermal Military Parka arrived. I’d made some fundamental changes quite far into the process. The initial design was lovely, but I wanted a jacket I adored, that made me buzz with excitement. This early version felt too light, too simple. So I had a minor existential crisis, paced around a lot worrying, then one day I knew what was wrong.
This was the phrase that kept bouncing around inside my skull. I was saying it to myself. I deciphered my subconcious: Most thermal jackets these days are light, insubstantial, easily ripped, one season only, over-priced for something that won’t (can’t) last. Shiny, synthetic bling. Often, FRAHM designs are borne of my frustration with what’s available. I wanted to wear, let alone make, a thermal jacket that was extremely protective but very tough and long lasting. Like a tank. It should be built like a tank. That sounded cool. I explored that concept.
The ‘tankness’ (new word) came from using heavier British Millerain Staywax 8, the same as that used on our toughest jacket, the Woodland. Then adding big metal trims - like the large steel clasps on the front. Everything was amped up - you don’t get small tanks. Big isn’t just tough. Big is easy to grab with gloved hands. Big, in this case, is practical.
The sample came and I was overcome with joy. Even though it had arrived minutes earlier, I stuck my reaction on the FRAHM Instagram straight away, and the interest was phenomenal.
Our most successful ever Instagram. This is what I chose to do, what I love doing, and something I need to do the very best I can. I think real joy and faith in a product is impossible to fake
So here we are. Both jackets are running low, with many options sold out until Autumn 2021. But the same question keeps popping up on Live Chat. What’s the difference? Which should I get? So I’ll take you through it.
Water beading on Ventile. You can see the 'action back' well here, which expands behind your shoulder blades for greater movement & comfort. Above that, notice the pleats, which shape the shoulders and articulate it... and the super tough double stitching
The Ventile is fully waterproof, including torrential rain, with taped seams behind famous Ventile fabric, a super tight cotton weave developed for Spitfire pilots.
The Parka is resistant to heavy showers or prolonged light rain and drizzle.
Both are great in snow.
This photoshoot was shot by the sea in constant rain or drizzle, which the Parka handled no problem. It was the sea winds that Chris was really grateful he was protected from
No biting wind penetration here. Both are extremely wind resistant, with the Parka having the edge due to it’s hood. The wool lining of the Ventile and the sheer thickness of the Parka make it hard to separate.
Chris burying himself deep into the high insulated & moleskin (it feels like a velvety mole's skin, but it's cotton!) lined collar
The Ventile is built for British weather. That means changeable, mostly above freezing point, lots of wind & rain. You can add layers so that you're comfortable in sub-zero temperatures, which I’ve factored into the sizing.
The exterior Ventile keeps out wind & rain. The recycled synthetic insulation is mid-weight. It’s far more practical, less cruel and long-lasting than down. The interior felted new wool lining is wonderfully cosy and keeps heat against the body.
The Thermal Military Parka has a high enclosing neck & hood fabrication that keeps the cold out. The hood is highly adjustable, with shock adjustment cords at the jaw and the rear, for a nailed-on fit. The hood fits over the mouth, if desired
The Parka is built for more Northern European and North American weather. Snow, sub-zero and just above zero drizzle and biting winds.
The exterior is a dry washable wax from British Millerain. It’s very rip resistant and keeps a really strong shape. The insulation is a heavier grade and is included in the hood. The lining is a very soft brushed pure cotton flannel check.
Amongst the plethora of detail, the Ventile Thermal Field Jacket has adjustable cuffs, a high moleskin lined collar and reinforced elbows
With both jackets being thermal, if the weather warms up, or if you’re building up heat climbing munroes, We’ve added zips at the sides to release heat, which are also very useful when sitting (on a sledge or apres-ski). The Ventile also has cuff zips for cooling & adjustability. The zips have rare Japanese rubber zip pulls, that we spent over a year sourcing. They’re sleek, simple, stay on (a surprisingly common issue we encountered with big zip pulls) and grip extremely well.
The Ventile inner ticket pocket, over a slim but dense new wool quilted lining. You can also see the zip of the right hip adjuster
Ventile was chosen as the base, as it is a very crisp fabric, with excellent waterproofing properties without the nasty synthetic shine of plastic. This makes it a very smart fabric. Add to that the multiple pockets typical of a field jacket, and it has a very crisp, military look. The big chunky YKK waterproof black zips are very tech and masculine. The quilted wool lining is where we find people ohhh and ahh. It’s wonderfully detailed and shows exception quality. We’ve lined the front storm cover for the zip with wool too, and added ultra high-end Italian Cobrax snaps.
We chose to bolt on a pair of the largest fabric-mounted clasps we could find, in hardened stainless steel with gunmetal finish. These are great to use in freezing weather, closing the weather out over an already impermeable waterproof Aquagard YKK zip. They're a beautiful, tough, feature that harks back to explorer jackets of the mid 20th century
The Parka is what I see as my reclamation of a style icon gone awry. Parkas are now formless fashion pieces. Cheap cotton hanging off sagging shoulders. I think of the Snorkel Parka’s of submarine crews and Scandinavian Military. Proper tough military snow jackets that enclose you. The parka is a very masculine, but still subtle piece. The gunmetal steel trims alongside super tough waxed fabric give it that “chunk” or “tank-like” look and feel I love. This jacket is a BEAST.
Both jackets are machine washable on a gentle cycle. They’re very tough, especially the parka. Just don’t use them to saw wood on - they’re not THAT tough.
Chris demonstrating the hip zips and the plethora of cargo pockets on the Ventile
Being a field jacket, a very pocket-heavy style, the Ventile has 8 pockets. Two chest, two lower cargo, two lined hand, an inner zip chest, inner buttoned ticket.
The inside chest pocket of the Parka is zipped, behind the insulation. You can see the quilted check flannel lining here too
The Parka has a measly seven pockets. Two large bellows cargo pockets, two lined hand, an upper left arm buttoned, inner left chest zipped, large inner button closure flap pocket. All are designed to be used with cold or gloved hands, so you get big buttons and grippy rubber zip pulls.
Both jackets have the same fit as all FRAHM jackets. Forgiving but expertly tailored, for real bodies. There is room for layers. Very tall men have options too.
Ventile: For full waterproofing, crisp smartness, more pockets & lighter weight. No hood, not as warm in extreme cold.
Parka: For greater warmth & toughness. It is hooded & longer than the Ventile. Not as waterproof, but no problem in light rain, snow and showers.
Both are classic investment pieces that stand out in a market dominated by synthetic bling. These are built to last many years, as fashions come and go.
I adore them both. They’re my pride & joy. You will too. I can’t wait to send them out.
Important Dates & Pre-orders:
Pre-orders for the Ventile Thermal Field Jacket close Thursday October 22nd 2020.
Pre-orders for the Thermal Military Parka close Thursday November 26th 2020.
As with all FRAHM Jackets, the pre-order closing date is relevant because the 20% discount we give to you to say thanks for paying upfront, stops.
What is worth bearing in mind is that by that time, most size & colour combinations will be long gone. As we only make maximum of 100 of each style, if you want a specific jacket, get it as soon as you can. We may make only 1 single jacket of your choice a year. Most are gone already.
For both jackets the next drop is Autumn 2021 but pre orders will open earlier than that.
Good luck, and when you get yours, enjoy years of wintery quality.
You've never seen most of the jackets I wear...
How do I go about improving on good, to great? What's my thought process?
I wanted to capture the lurid neon cityscapes that I obsess about.
FRAHM has its first employee. Emmalou, my wife & partner of 24 years.
It’s a perfect fit, apart from our little rages.