Outdoor adventure jacket coated in graphene by Vollebak

Vollebak has released an outdoor adventure jacket coated in graphene, a microscopic super-material that is stronger than steel, waterproof, antibacterial and transfers heat away from your body so you might not even sweat. (Photo by Vollebak)

Features | From Pivot Magazine

Batsuit crazy

A superjacket for wannabe Bruce Waynes looks to upend the adventure apparel business

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THE GAMBLE:

Vollebak, a three-year-old apparel brand for men, has released an outdoor adventure jacket coated in graphene, a microscopic super-material that is stronger than steel, waterproof, antibacterial and transfers heat away from your body so you might not even sweat. Graphene was discovered in 2004 by a team of scientists at the University of Manchester who later won a 2010 Nobel Prize in physics for their work. Ever since, researchers have had a hard time producing the material affordably at commercial scales—something that isn’t expected to happen until 2025. That’s when the global graphene market will have quintupled to US$1 billion, creating an incentive for the blue chip companies that have been investing in its R&D—like Samsung, which holds one quarter of all graphene patents in South Korea—to mass-market their gear and gadgets, driving down the cost to consumers. Meanwhile, the price tag on Vollebak’s superjacket—made in conjunction with the team that produced Michael Phelps’s ultra-fast LZR swimsuit for the 2008 Beijing Olympics—is US$695. Are they making their play too early?

THE PLAN:

The founders of Vollebak, British twins Nick and Steve Tidball, intend to use the novelty of the jacket—which they describe as part fashion, part science experiment—to their advantage. “In tech, you can either risk being early or late,” says Steve, who along with Nick previously worked in advertising. “We decided to be early. That way we can harness the collective power of early adopters—adventurers, entrepreneurs, scientists—as a test group. We believe they’re likely to discover things that we simply don’t know about how graphene behaves.” 

THE RESULT:

After launching in August, Vollebak’s first run of jackets sold out in 10 days, and the company plans to release a second run by the end of 2018, suggesting Vollebak’s timing is actually on point. “With a new, experimental material like graphene, the research and development phase may never be finished,” Steve says. “We could have kept it in a lab, and still be improving on this jacket in 10 or even 50 years’ time. But by releasing it to the market now, we’re hoping to achieve the scale necessary to drive the industry forward.”