When Nick and Steve Tidball founded Vollebak in 2016, the designer/athlete twins’ goal was to make sports gear like no one before them. Two years later, in May 2018, they exploded onto the scene with their Solar Charged Jacket, which instantly charges whenever its near a light source, is extremely breathable, waterproof, and so lightweight and flexible it can be rolled up into a pocket-size ball.
That design won Time’s Best Inventions of 2018 award, Wired’s Gear of the Year prize, and even a victory at Fast Company’s Innovation by Design awards. And that was just the beginning for Vollebak.
The Butterfly Effect
In August 2018, Vollebak introduced the Blue Morpho Jacket. Its design was motivated by none other than the amazing shimmering wings of the Blue Morpho butterfly, which are covered with infinitesimal scales that reflect light to create an iridescent blue that continually changes color. The intensity of the hues makes the butterflies extremely visible — even to pilots flying a good half mile above the rainforest.
To mimic this natural phenomenon, the brothers covered the surface of their ski/snowboard jacket with 2 billion extremely reflective microscopic blue glass spheres, with a whopping 40,000 spheres in each square centimeter.
In passive light, the jacket appears to be a basic blue color. When it’s exposed to bright light, the glow passes through the curved surface of the glass spheres, reflecting directly back to the original light source and making the whole thing light up. The jacket’s surface can also change from flat matte blue to an intense Herculean blue in a nanosecond.
When a skier descends a slope, the jacket makes them appear to be warping and shifting. If the jacket is photographed with a flash in bright daylight, the image will appear as a liquid blue metal blur, with the face and body of the person wearing it disappearing completely.
Up Next: The Black Squid Jacket
In 2019, Vollebak introduced the Black Squid Jacket. Based on the qualities of actual squid skin, this 100-percent waterproof jacket replicates the camouflage effects of the underwater critter. This time, the 2-billion-plus microscopic glass orbs are embedded in resin on the exterior of the jacket. In simple daylight, it looks like a metal-infused oil slick. When exposed to intense light, the fabric reflects every color in the spectrum.
Steve Tidball explains: “The black squid jacket focuses on replicating the elements of squid skin that make it hyper-visible. While the squid uses microscopic plate-like structures on the surface of its skin to change color, our jacket uses disruptively-structured microscopic glass spheres.” This requires not only the glass spheres, but also three layers of fabric and resin.
Vollebak has many more designs in the works that will no doubt rock the sports gear world all over again. Be sure to check in with us for more exciting developments from this shining startup company.