Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Fabric Knowledge - Ventile

colourswatch of available Ventile colours
I figured, that doing some small features on some very iconic fabrics, would help generate some knowledge and create an appreciation of good fabrics and well-made clothing.

The first fabric I would like to write about is Ventile.

The fabric Ventile was developed by Scientists at the Shirley Institute during the Second World War. But the idea was spawned in the 30's, when the British government feared, that there would be a shortage of flax, which was used for fire hoses among other things. So they decided to find a way to use cotton instead and that is how they invented Ventile.

Ventile is a hard wearing all cotton fabric, that is made of tightly woven long staple cotton fibres. Ventile is known to be both waterproof and windproof - and it's not on account of the breathability. The waterproofness is created because the cotton fibres expand when they become wet making no room for the water to penetrate. So Ventile is not waterproofed through a coating of some kind of wax, membrane or other coating, which is also why it never looses its waterproof abilities with wear.
Ventile is a favourite amongst hunters and naturalists because it is a very silent material. It produces no noise because it being all cotton. This is quite a contrast compared to synthetic and membrane fabrics like Gore-Tex, which can feel like walking around with Einst├╝rzende Neubauten in the shape of a jacket. Besides the silent quality it is very tear-resistant and it doesn't catch fire easily. 

There are three grades of Ventile and they are intended for some rather specific uses. Ventile has generally been used in many situations throughout history. It has a long history in the military, on polar expeditions and it was used in the first successful climbs of both Annapurna and Everest. Unfortunately it is only made in one specific mill in the UK called Talbot Weaving, hence making the availability sparse and the price very high.

I have seen some beautiful jackets in Ventile from Beaver of Bolton (a lesser known brilliant English maker of country clothing),  clothes by Wings+Horns and Outlier, but I think some of the best have been made by Nigel Cabourn - the master of outerwear. This is of course mostly in a fashion context. I didn't include any actual military jackets, though I know the RAF smock is very appreciated.

Ventile and all kinds of goodness - Coyote fur trim,  goosedown filling, Riri zipper, and sheepskin lining

Harris Tweed with Ventile patches

In the Yuketen x Cabourn collaboration. Classic Yuketen Hunting boot (which are also deadly silent on concrete btw) with Ventile accents

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