Toast Magazine

Oro Sports Cooling Vests Make Waves at Tokyo Olympics

Published on July 10, 2021

2 USA Olympic sailors wearing cooling vests

When siblings Luanne and Van DiBernardo returned to their hometown of Buffalo after living out of state for years, they were both at a crossroads. Luanne had been working in film and advertising, while Van had been designing for Donna Karan in Manhattan, but had returned home to cope with his diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS).

The siblings noticed that whenever Van became overheated, his MS symptoms would worsen, and his condition would deteriorate significantly — a result of the autonomic dysfunction brought on by the disease. Luanne bought Van an industrial cooling vest to help regulate his body temperature, and although it helped with the symptoms, it wasn’t exactly akin to the designer accessories he was used to.

“It was heavy, ugly, made with cheap materials, and it had ice packs inside so it got wet,” Luanne says. “I threw out the idea, ‘Just design yourself a cooling vest and have someone make it,’ and that was the seed.”

Sibling Duo Bring Creative Chops to Cooling Vest Design

Having grown up in a family of artists, the siblings were already equipped with the creative chops and eye for aesthetics needed to pull off their vision, while Van’s background in design and firsthand experience of living with MS made him the perfect person for the job. They first launched in 2010 under the name “Coolture,” learning on the job as they engineered their first product designed for people living with MS and other chronic conditions affecting the autonomic nervous system.

“Looking back, I can say we were way ahead of the curve. We were two people without experience going into a niche that really wasn’t being recognized yet,” Luanne says. “But we kept going and over time we realized finally cooling was becoming prominent because of heatwaves and climate change, so we were kind of lucky — lucky or stupid — that we hung in there long enough to became relevant in many markets.”

Oro Sports cooling vest on girl athlete
The Oro Sports cooling vest is designed for people, not patients | Photo credit Oro Sports

Expanding the Design to Market to Athletes

In 2019, the company pivoted to be more sports-focused, rebranding to Oro Sports just a few months before the pandemic hit. Their aim was to be accessible to a wider range of consumers, not just people living with chronic illnesses.

“Our philosophy from the get-go was that we don’t design for patients, we design for people,” Luanne says. “My brother said he would prefer to buy a garment that an athlete is buying. If you market to the athlete, you’ll still get people with chronic conditions and workers, but market only to the disease market, you’ll never get the athletes.”

oro sports cooling vest on femal athlete
The U.S. sailing team will wear Oro Sports cooling vests during this year’s Summer Olympics in Tokyo | Photo credit Oro Sports

U.S. Sailing Team Will Wear Oro Sports Cooling Vests

The pivot proved to be successful — Oro Sports recently shipped 40 vests to Tokyo for the U.S. sailing team to wear during this year’s Summer Olympics. With polymer packs sealed between two layers of plastic, the vests are lighter, colder and longer-lasting than the prototypes that use ice to stay cold, and they allow the athlete to make more articulated and precise movements.

As the first athleticwear company to introduce the idea that lowering the core body temperature of athletes could improve performance, Nike released its first PreCool Vest in Athens, later reengineering the design for swimmers in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The design features sealed compartments, which athletes can refill with water and freeze, to keep them cool in hot conditions.

“That’s when I knew we were on the right track,” Luanne says. “Nike provided all the U.S. Olympic athletes with this vest, but it’s so uncomfortable, you’re wearing four huge blocks of ice. The sailing team said, ‘No way,’ and they tested ours and said, ‘If you can make this in white, we’ll take it.’”

woman wearing oro sports cooling vest
Oro Sports is working on new designs for their popular cooling vests | Photo credit Oro Sports

Sibling Team Working on New Designs for Cooling Vests

The duo are now working on a handful of new designs including a prototype for aerobic athletes, as well as a cooling headband, which has been helping to ease symptoms for people with chronic migraines.

“Investors always say, ‘What’s your barrier to entry?’ and I always say, ‘Catch us if you can.’ They’ll never live long enough to put out all the designs Van has drawn to regulate body temperature,” Luanne says. “There are so many prototypes we’d love to launch. We’re a design-centric house, not a one-trick pony.”

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Lead photo courtesy Oro Sports
★ Reviews

Customers Talk

57 reviews
Multiple Sclerosis Patient Needed Cooling Vest

I was recently diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and need to keep my core cool to reduce MS attacks and severity. I live in Southern California where it gets really hot and summer temps can be brutal. I also live on a ranch and the animals must be taken care of regardless of how hot it is. I looked at cheaper vests but all they were was material soaked in water and put on for an evaporative effect. Not any better than taking off my t shirt and getting it wet on the wash rack at the barn and putting it on. I found this and decided to try it since it had actual frozen material held close to the body. We have had 90+ degree temps the last two days with 35-60 % humidity so a pretty good test environment. I had frozen the gel packs and inserted into the vest and put on with my t shirt underneath to go out and feed and water the animals. I did stay much cooler than without the vest and wasn’t sweating up a storm or getting dizzy in the heat. But after 1 hour the gel packs were thawing out about half way, but still keeping me cool. When I returned to the house I just stuck the whole vest in the chest freezer so I can easily grab it before going out knowing it will be good to go. If you need cooling power for more than a couple of hours you will need additional gel packs to swap out. This will work for MS patients for 2 hrs or less. If you want to do outside activities for longer you need cooling gel inserts front and back. So for riding and driving the mules and donkeys I bought a Glacier Tech vest that holds frozen cooling gel packets both front and back and will last up to 4 hrs no problem. It is also heavier and bulkier and of course costs more. MS patient’s internal thermometer is broken and we are always hot and overheat easily. So we must have a way to keep cool outside or we can’t go outside. This vest would be great for gardening, walks, short errand runs etc for MS patients as well as normal people looking for some heat relief. If you need to use it on the job outside buy several gel cooling packs to swap out throughout the day. I found the gel packs expand much more easily in warm water in the sink, submerged under a dinner plate for a couple hours. All expanded no problem.


The photos are misleading. Once the ice packs are added this is very bulky and looks like a life vest especially if you have breasts. I bought this for equestrian sports. You could only use after you have taken care of your horse. Once you can put it on, it works fantastic. But I went off the thin photo and was disappointed not being able to wear . The ice packs are bumpy so if you fall wearing this, it will hurt.

Nice cooling vest

I ordered this on advice from others with MS to see if it would help with my heat intolerance. It helped greatly. I used it for mowing our lawn on an upper 80's day.
I mowed for about an hour and the cooling packs were still more than 1/2 frozen and I was still comfortable. It wore nicely and was not restrictive at all.
Definitely would recommend this.

CoolSport Vestino
Yuri Artibise
Helped During the Heat Dome

I have MS and heat exacerbates my symptoms. While I initially purchased this vest to help keep cool while exercising outside during the summer, it proved invaluable to helping keep cool during the 'heat dome' event that his the west coast during the end of June, both when I was inside or outside!

Its minimal size and shape allows you to move freely when wearing it (even when wearing a back- or water-pack over top), but the full back ice pack still keeps you cool.

I highly recommend it for those looking for a lightweight and unobstructive way to keep cool in the heat.

Comfort found in a vest!

my experience has been great. From the first call to ask questions about the product. Order fulfilled in no time at all. wearing the vest has been wonderful, helping to keep my core temperature in control so I can be active outdoors for much longer. The zipper is easy for me to use too. This summer is going to be great!