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

76 reviews
Cooling Gloves
Charlie Stapleton
Awesome products!!!

I purchased the gloves because of multiple carpal tunnel surgeries. I especially use them after playing golf and garden work. The gloves are doing what I expected them to do. Great product.

Unbelievable product.

After having a heat stroke 18 years ago I have been extremely susceptible to heat illness. I played four days of golf in Texas with 95 to 100 degrees and the cooling vest and head bands made me feel the best in the heat since before my heat stroke! Great products and service

CoolSport Vestino
Joyce Haraway
Keeping Cool on the Golf Course

If heat and humidity is keeping you away from your favorite round of golf consider trying the Oro Vestito to keep you cool. My husband who suffers from the heat is able to keep cool with it in 90 degree weather. In addition the Vestito vest does not inhibit his golf swing in any way. A suggestion would be to purchase two cooling packs as one’s cooling effect lasts for approximately nine holes. A wonderful invention!!

Eva P.
Cool Cuffs Really Work

I really like the redesigned cool cuffs. The fabric has a nice stretch and the cool packs stay securely inside the cuff pocket while wearing. I wore them last week on a very hot day as I gardened outside. The frozen packs lasted about an hour before the cooling effect rapidly decreased. That was perfect for me, as I hadn't planned on gardening for more than an hour anyway. Since the cuffs come with an extra set of cooling packs, I could have easily popped a new frozen set in and continued working. I threw them in the washer and let them air dry to ensure the elastic component of the fabric would not be damaged by heat drying. They came out like new.

I give these a five-star rating and I think buyers will love the improved design. The only negative for me is that I have very small wrists (5 1/4"). While the cuffs were not loose and made good contact with my skin, the fit was more snug when I first put them on. As the cool packs began to melt, the cuffs felt just a little bit looser, but they still maintained their cooling effect.

Thank you Oro for your quality products!

So Happy To Have Found This!

I suffer from a condition that causes me to overheat. This cooling vest is a lifesaver. I wore it to the State Fair and did not overheat once, even when in direct sunlight, with an outdoor temp of 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Now if only I could sleep in it!