JAGO Jackets are descended from a long-line of British outerwear designed for adventurers the world over; a history that founder Alex Orr knows only too keenly. His inspiration for creating the original Mark I jacket was a weatherworn cotton canvas climbing jacket passed down from his father, who himself inherited it from a friend and mountain leader, Andreas Geissberger. For over 40 years, this jacket had travelled across the globe and stood up to adventures innumerable, from skiing in the Alps to journeying down the Colorado River on a Triumph Bonneville. Throughout that time, it had collected scars and faded in the elements, but never losing an iota of performance or style (if anything, the latter increased with age).
And then, disaster struck – whilst visiting Bristol, the jacket was lost, off on a new adventure with a lucky new owner. Fuelled by loss and guilt, Orr decided to create a new version in the guise of its predecessor but with alterations fit for the modern age. Underarm stretch panels and storm cuffs were the only visible additions; well, beyond the tailored fit designed for use in the city, of course. Aesthetics aside, Orr made one significant upgrade to the original jacket – one that stands it apart from almost every jacket we’ve ever seen. And it takes the form of Ventile cotton, which has a unique history of its own.
Ventile was designed during World War Two for fighter pilots protecting trans-Arctic convoys from the UK to Russia. The problem was that due to the remote, hostile landscape, there was no way of refuelling the planes, so pilots stood a good chance of having to bail out over Arctic waters (we know, a 9-5 seems a real burden now, doesn’t it?) To increase their chances of survival, the British Army developed Ventile – a unique cotton using a dense Oxford weave that swells on contact with water to create a waterproof shield against the elements.
It was so revolutionary that Sir Edmund Hillary used Ventile clothing for his conquest of Mount Everest with Tenzing Norgay in 1953, and it’s still used by Tornado pilots to this day. For Orr, there was no material more suited to creating this Platonic ideal of a jacket designed to be a lifelong companion for adventure. With a Ventile mill in Switzerland on board and some grainy old photographs of his father’s jacket, Orr had the Mark I sketched before bringing production back to the UK, in Manchester. The current edition, the Mark II, has seen further upgrades and improvements, too.
Since then, interest has grown at a rapid rate, with JAGO numbering Bear Grylls and a Cresta Run bobsleigh team among their advocates. Beyond celebrity endorsement, their message of investing in a product to last for life has hit a nerve among intrepid everyday adventurers tired of transient consumerist ideologies. Instead of buying cheap and cheaply made products every season, people are turning back the clock to a time when items – from jackets and rucksacks to kitchenware and camping gear – were cared for and designed to last. With that minimalist approach, these items become fixed companions on your adventures, from daily travels to far-flung expeditions, and they develop and age with you. True, it might be an idealised, romantic concept – but it’s exactly that kind of thinking that inspired JAGO, with truly exceptional results.
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