The Virtues of Ventile

16 September 2021

Words by Alex Freeling

In a world of synthetic rainwear, Ventile stands out. It’s a high-performance technical fabric made from pure cotton. Rather than using a coating to achieve waterproofing, Ventile relies principally on the extreme fineness and density of the cotton, meaning that it lasts longer than laminated fabrics, and like quality denim, it ages beautifully. It’s a rare marriage of traditional materials and modern performance.

Ventile was invented in the late 1930s at the Shirley Institute, a cotton research centre in Manchester that also developed the tog measurement for insulation. Its original purpose wasn’t clothing but fire hoses. During the Second World War, however, researchers quickly realised the value of the fabric for pilots: comfortable in the cockpit but lifesaving should they hit the Atlantic Ocean. It was later adopted by explorers including Sir Edmund Hillary and Sir Ranulph Fiennes.

Manufacturing Ventile is less than straightforward. The extra-long staple cotton yarn that gives it comfort and density also makes it tricky to dye, even with modern techniques. As dyeing houses in the UK declined in the post-war period, the manufacturer Talbot Weaving turned to Swiss textile finisher Stotz & Co for assistance. The collaboration flourished, and in 2017 when Talbot’s owners retired, Stotz acquired Ventile, cementing its Anglo-Swiss legacy.

It’s a fitting choice in more ways than one for Trunk’s Ebury blazer. Designed in-house, this lightweight jacket is an easy choice for smart-casual occasions and changeable weather. Since it’s made from Ventile, it has the soul of a washed cotton blazer (with the elegant cut and horn buttons to fit) yet it’s hardy and showerproof, employing the same technology that kept pilots and explorers dry.

“There is something truly fascinating about the depth of history in Ventile fabric,” says Trunk’s own label manager, Julia. “For our own collection we always try to have function and endurance at the centre, and Ventile’s compact weave, weather-beating qualities and lightness tick a lot of boxes.” With its combination of British heritage and Swiss finesse, Ventile complements Trunk’s own Anglo-Swiss story in London and Zürich. Ventile also shares in the broader ethos: it’s sophisticated, ecologically sensitive, and technically refined, but wears its achievements modestly.

The Ebury can be worn in many ways, substituting for a regular tailored jacket on inclement days, or paired with denim as a casual piece of lightweight outerwear. Cut in classic proportions and offered in versatile colours, it’s a jacket that will remain useful for years to come. Like all Ventile pieces, it’s made to age gracefully over time, moulding to the shape and motions of its owner. As with any cotton jacket, it’s worth giving it a quick brush from time to time to remove dirt and dust. And if, after many seasons, the waterproof surface starts to become absorbent, you can refresh it with the heat of a cool iron.

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