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What is Ventile? A Unique Story

Here’s a fabric I love, that you love, with a cult following.

Ventile® has a cult following for a reason. Its origin story is unique & historic. Its characteristics, surprising and, considering its age, ever more relevant.

Invented pre World War 2, Ventile® is bonkers because it a natural 100% cotton fabric, yet waterproof. It doesn’t look or feel waterproof, yet beads beautifully. Most waterproof fabrics are synthetic and ‘loud’, rustling as they move. Ventile® is quiet and understated. You can also add breathability to this list.

Unusually for a performance fabric, it’s also smart, with the drape of a tightly woven high quality cotton. It suits structured, stylish outwear.

Now you can see why it’s such a FRAHM fabric. Technical yet classically stylish, smart but rugged. If only it weren’t so damned expensive.

 

When was Ventile® invented?

We're glad you asked. The history of Ventile® begins with boffins in Manchester in the 1930s. A cotton woven so compactly, it prevents ingress. It was then woven on specialist looms in Chorley, Lancashire. 

The famous (to us Ventile® cultists) bit of the story starts during World War II. In the War, Britain relied heavily on sea convoys carrying vital supplies. However, our Arctic Ocean convoys were susceptible to attack. Defence from home-based RAF was impossible due to the distance, so politicians, scientists, and war officials tried to think of a solution. 

Ventile Jacket

Churchill supported the concept of catapulting expendable (ahem) Hurricane aircraft from the decks of merchant ships to provide cover. The pilot then had the choice of ditching the aircraft or jumping into the sea, however, the water was so cold that life expectancy was only a few minutes. It was essentially a suicide mission.

There was an immediate need for a new, protective fabric that could be worn comfortably in the cockpit, yet would also keep the pilot warm and dry in the sea long enough to be rescued. They needed a submersion suit that didn’t exist. 

Suit or no suit, just imagine being a pilot being asked to carry out these missions, or being the one doing the asking…

Ventile® garments extended life expectancy to 20 minutes in near freezing sea temperatures, and rescue was an actual possibility. 80% of pilots who fell into the sea now survived. That’s still a horrific rate of attrition.

This is the true definition of a technical performance fabric. Something that saves lives, not just in the water, but through the actions of the pilots in defending ships and their crews, and consequently lives throughout the world. This is no small feat.

Following The War, the fabric was championed by outdoor enthusiasts. It was even worn by Sir Edmund Hilary on his first summit of Everest and then, nearly 30 years later, by Sir Ranulph Fiennes crossing the Arctic (I actually remember watching this as a boy on Blue Peter!).

As newer, higher performance synthetic waterproof fabrics, with ever higher waterproofing ratings (which rarely need to rate so high as they also reduce breathability) overtook Ventile®, it fell out of favour. Hence it’s recent quiet “those who know, know” status. 

Yet Ventile® it is growing in stature again. The new Swiss owners of the marque can’t make Ventile fast enough. Why? Sustainability, and the search by brands like us for better solutions to age old problems, in this case via classic yet innovative fabrics. 

That's all well and good, but can you wash Ventile®? Can you iron Ventile®? Yes! Ventile® is biodegradable, can be ironed cool, washed on a gentle cycle in cool water, with soap flakes (no conditioner!). This is actually the same as most waterproof fabrics. Just treat them gently.

We jacket fans love real history, true stories and garments that damage our world less. Win win.

All this makes it the perfect fabric to use for our beloved Ventile Thermal Field Jacket. An extremely high quality, classically smart winter coat with a natural exterior and interior, that is waterproof, sustainable & crisply cut.

What story. What a solution. What a fabric. Our jacket is alright too.

Nick, founder/designer

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