Multiverse of style: Volante Design in Easthampton has a mission to make jackets that anyone can wear anytime

David Volante , co-owner of Volante Designs, talks about the business in his Easthampton office.

David Volante , co-owner of Volante Designs, talks about the business in his Easthampton office. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

VOLANTE DESIGN

VOLANTE DESIGN

VOLANTE DESIGN

VOLANTE DESIGN VOLANTE DESIGN

David Volante, co-owner of Volante Design, talks about the business in his Easthampton office.

David Volante, co-owner of Volante Design, talks about the business in his Easthampton office. STAFF PHOTOS/CAROL LOLLIS

David and Willow Volante,  co-owners of  Volante Designs,  at the business in Easthampton.

David and Willow Volante, co-owners of Volante Designs, at the business in Easthampton. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

David Volante , co-owner of Volante Designs, talks about the business in his Easthampton office.

David Volante , co-owner of Volante Designs, talks about the business in his Easthampton office. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Ellen Hoff, an employee of  Volante Design, works on sewing  patches on a Star Trek jacket at the business in Easthampton.

Ellen Hoff, an employee of Volante Design, works on sewing patches on a Star Trek jacket at the business in Easthampton. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Ellen Hoff, an employee of  Volante Designs, works on sewing  patches on a Star Trek Jacket at the business in Easthampton.

Ellen Hoff, an employee of Volante Designs, works on sewing patches on a Star Trek Jacket at the business in Easthampton. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Ellen Hoff, an employee of  Volante Designs, works on sewing  patches on a Star Trek Jacket at the business in Easthampton.

Ellen Hoff, an employee of Volante Designs, works on sewing patches on a Star Trek Jacket at the business in Easthampton. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

From left, a trio of Volante Design styles: the Kage Jacket, the Augment Vest and the Dorian.

From left, a trio of Volante Design styles: the Kage Jacket, the Augment Vest and the Dorian. Courtesy

By Alexa Lewis

Staff Writer

Published: 05-15-2024 3:30 PM

Modified: 05-15-2024 5:57 PM


EASTHAMPTON — When David Volante posted a photo to his blog of a custom jacket he was working on in 2012, he wasn’t expecting it to go viral.

The interest in his design made him realize that people wanted what he was selling, and he could sell even more of it. Soon, he had brought together a group of friends who helped him compile a mailing list and publish a website for the product. They sold the jacket for $350 a unit, and in just five hours they had received over 100 orders.

In 2013, the business was officially incorporated thanks to the business savvy of Willow Volante, the company’s current CEO and wife of David Volante, the company’s designer. Mass production was underway, and Volante Design was born.

“I’ve always been interested in character design,” Volante said. “I started by making clothes for myself based on things that I liked, and eventually a friend saw a hoodie that I’d made and asked me how much it would be to buy one. … I realized that other people want clothes based on video game characters, not just me.”

Volante Design features expansive collections whose styles find inspiration in everything from “Star Trek” to “Penny Dreadful.” But while their clothing is reminiscent of these often-mystical worlds, Volante Design has a mission to make products that anyone can wear anytime.

“I do my best to combine function with my influences,” said Volante. “When I put on something I’ve made, it puts part of me into that world, but I don’t want to stand out too much like I’m wearing a costume. I like taking a half-step into another world.”

Pandemic pivot

Volante’s business model has evolved several times to adapt to changing demands, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

Typically, Volante Design would showcase products at conventions, allowing customers to see and feel the clothing for themselves. In 2019, Volante Design attended 30 conventions, but suddenly these events were closed down for a span of over 18 months.

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Volante pivoted, using employees’ sewing and design skills to start producing masks. In 2020, Volante Design made over 30,000 masks both for sale and to be shipped to local emergency medical services.

“We wanted something to do, and we wanted to keep paying our staff during the pandemic,” said Volante.

During the pandemic, social media became the main highway for human connection, and Volante Design accelerated its production of new products to keep up with the demand to stay relevant in the fast-paced online world.

“In 2020, to keep people’s attention we had to just keep releasing new products, but it was creatively unsustainable for me and it was hard for our staff to support the products after the initial sale,” said Volante.

The company launched about 50 products in 2020, according to Volante. Now he says they have cut back down to one or two product releases per month, which allows them to focus more on the performance and marketing of those products.

During its 2020 production whirlwind, the company also increased efficiency by starting to cut fabric in-house using a computerized cutting table at offices in Eastworks. Eliminating the need for a cutting factory, Volante can now send the pieces of fabric directly to their sewing factory in New York.

This has not only reduced the amount of time between design and production but gave the company space for its next step: using overseas production to expand product offerings.

Overseas production

This April, the company announced that it would be moving some aspects of production overseas with the hopes of expanding its offerings and keeping costs down for consumers.

“Changing the way we do our production is a big deal. It was a tough decision. And there is no other path forward if we want to stay in business,” the company said on its website. “It is our dream to make a world of fashion where people can feel extraordinary. Our commitment to quality, ethics and style aren’t going anywhere, but our manufacturing has to.”

“We’ve always been a jacket company. We want to make a clothing company,” Volante said about the decision. “In order to price woven shirts in a profitable way using our New York factory, they’d have to be around $200, which is above where I want it to be from an accessibility perspective. We don’t want to be a luxury brand, but prices have been veering that way.”

The company has been working on the move for a full year now, according to Volante. He said that this change in production will allow the company to expand into shirts, pants, bags, fully waterproof jackets and more, but the process of vetting the ethical standards of these distant factories is a long one.

Volante said the company has been in conversation with a few fair-trade-certified factories but that “certifications only give you part of the story.”

“The level of skill it takes to make the products I want to make deserves respect,” he said. “We’re a small company, so it’s harder to visit and guarantee that with overseas factories.”

Nonetheless, Volante expects the first wave of international products to arrive within a few months — including a woven shirt and a soft-shell waterproof jacket.

“We will begin our production overseas journey in China. There are simply too many state-of-the-art factories to ignore,” the company announced on their website. “Next we’re hoping to go to Italy, so stay tuned for what that looks like!”

Volante expressed his excitement about the new design possibilities presented by overseas production.

“The biggest part is the accessibility aspect. I want it to be normal for people to wear ‘weird’ clothes that they feel comfortable in,” he said. “Each of our collections is like it’s own little universe … they’re infinitely expansive.”

Alexa Lewis can be reached at alewis@gazettenet.com or on Instagram and Twitter at @alexamlewis.