Whenever futuristic brand Vollebak drops something new, it's all or nothing. Twin brothers Nick and Steve Tidball's brand constantly pushes the boundaries of textile development and fashion design in the name of the future.
For those unaware, Vollebak strives to create futuristic clothing through the lens of adventure sports. Owned and operated by the two brothers, Vollebak has created some of the most technologically advanced clothing ever, like "indestructible" puffer jackets and ceramic t-shirts.
With adventurous tech like this, it's no wonder TIME has awarded Vollebak the title of “Best Invention" multiple times. How many other clothing brands can claim that?
In 2019, Vollebak released its first stab at intergalactic wearables, the “Deep Sleep Cocoon,” designed to help intergalactic travelers rest and sleep in space.
Vollebak’s next giant leap for mankind is a jacket and pants set designed for life on Mars, sold exclusively through Vollebak's website and flagship store.
Obviously, you can still wear the jacket here on Earth, where you'll be ready for anything this world has to throw at you and more. Offered in cream or grey, the jacket includes anti-gravity pockets, ballistic nylon, and velcro fasteners to keep comfortable while toiling on Mars' brutal surface.
Vollebak has also planned for discomfort that arises from interplanetary travel. Getting nauseous from your internal organs shifting around in zero-g? Simply twist open the Mars Jacket's chest panel to reveal a stashable (and cleanable) vomit bag.
With the Mars Jacket and Pants, Vollebak has turned its attention to clothing that will help people working on a new planet, while overcoming challenges such as shifting gravitational fields and space adaptation syndrome.
The Mars set is only part of the picture; according to co-founder Steve Tidball, "clothing is basically just Vollebak's first act."
Vollebak looks to shoot the future of clothing through the lens of adventure sports. Has that changed your vision of futuristic clothing?
The first reason to shoot the future of clothing through the lens of adventure is because it gives it a focus, a purpose, and a reason to exist. Clothes that try to be generically ‘futuristic’ feel destined to fail. You have to have a vision of what the future is going to be like, or a problem to solve.
The second reason is that the things that used to mainly be faced by adventurers, are now going to be faced by lots of people a lot of the time – from intense isolation during covid, to fires, flooding, and all kinds of extreme weather. You used to have to go somewhere remote to find things like this. Now you can probably find it where you live.
You have one retail store, located in Australia, almost 300 kilometers away from anyone or anything else, can you give some background to that?
Honestly first of all we just found it really funny – the idea that there was this shop in the middle of nowhere. It was this really beautiful thing. You normally think about most stores existing in really densely populated places. And this was the complete opposite. It’s in the middle of the Australian Outback, and 3 days drive from the nearest city along a sand road with camels and kangaroos.
But then we thought about what an amazing adventure it would be for people to try and get there. So we told Carol and Ross who run the store that could sell the shirts for whatever people wanted to pay.
You might have to travel 3 days on a dirt road, but you could pick the shirt up for free with a beer. If you’re looking for it on Google Maps, it’s the Tjukayirla Roadhouse. Given customers have been asking us for years to stock our stuff in stores, this seemed like the ideal first place.
You've said that creating clothing for the challenges we’ll face over the next century is a goal of yours. Do you find it more important to think about the challenges we’ll face here on Earth, or is it more about looking at options that aren’t Earth?
One of the things about designing for the future is you have to spend a lot of time thinking about things that haven’t happened yet but will. We’re at a unique point in human history where we have the ability to save our own planet at the same time as colonize new ones. So my view is we have to design for both things at the same time. We obviously have to design for space as the last time humanity colonised a planet was our own around 50,000 years ago. So we’re a bit out of practice.
But it was worth it, because colonising Earth led to the invention of clothing and complex tools, as well as the rapid evolution of languages, architecture and society.
I think it’s pretty likely that the race up to space will lead to the same kind of renaissance in engineering and creativity over the next century and beyond. And that’s why we’re looking at clothing for Mars and starting to work on all the kinds of issues we’re going to face up there – from shifting gravitational fields and space adaptation syndrome, to how we take bathroom breaks.
At the same time we have to design for our planet that’s undergoing rapid changes. Good design has a responsibility to respond to the world around it. It can’t simply divorce itself. And right now there are plenty of challenges on Earth to design for. And the reality is, we’re largely unprepared as a species for the speed at which change is taking place.
Is there interest in branching out into other mediums of design in order to achieve a goal of sustainability and future innovation?
Yes. That’s the next step. So far we’ve worked mostly in the field of material science. But this can only take you so far. Next we need to start looking at what other fields are going to start integrating with clothing.
To someone who may have been following Vollebak for a while or a potential new fan and customer, what would you say about the upcoming years?
I would say clothing is just the first act. And where it goes from here is kind of fascinating. The way we look at it is that clothing hasn’t fundamentally changed over the last 50,000 years. Prehistoric man invented clothing to survive the last ice age. And just like us they built clothing that could keep you warm or dry, or cool, or maybe indicate you had some kind of status. But over the next 50,000 years clothing is going to take on completely new roles and become more to do with enhancement. So what we’re interested in is what those first steps look like, from what clothing was, to what it will become.