February 1, 2007
A Swiss company deploys a futuristic material in its stylish protective headgear.
Jürg Ramseier, a ski instructor in the Swiss Alps, hated the helmet he conscientiously wore in front of his students, so in 1999 he set about finding a fashionable alternative that would combine the shock-absorbing armor of a helmet with the warmth and flexibility of a lightweight knit hat. Six years later his company, Ribcap (www.ribcap.ch), unveiled a headgear line designed by Berlin-based Frisch. Unassuming on the outside, the caps are reinforced on the inside with a futuristic rubberlike material called d3o that hardens upon impact.
For his latest collection, Ramseier turned to Thomas Wüthrich and Lisa Besset (www.lisa-tom.com), a young design team based in Basel. “He was looking for someone who could cross industrial and fashion design,” Wüthrich says. “Lisa is a fashion designer; I’m the product designer.” The collaboration produced four versatile styles, which won last year’s Swiss Design Award. (The Billie, named after Lady Day, is pictured below.) Here they delve into the particulars of their novel hats, available through Ribcap in anthracite, cream, red, and olive.
The fabric is half wool, half polyester. We originally insisted on 100-percent wool but were advised that the mix of fibers would be less itchy for people with sensitive skin.
The adjustable strap is attached to an elastic ribbon that runs between the two knit layers. This ribbon was difficult to integrate into the production process because it’s very tricky to sew.
Achieving the right elasticity and strength was essential. The knitting factory, Frilo Swissmade, produced many samples before getting the proper one-size-fits-all stretch.
Producing the d3o mold is expensive, so it was important that we come up with only one shape [shown here] for all the styles. A duplicate panel fits closely around the other side of the head.
The challenge was to cover the head with as few gaps between the protective panels as possible. A small incision was made to allow the structure to stretch and accommodate all head sizes.