Role Reversal at the Heart of Coolture
"Growing up, my sister was my muse when thinking about fashion design. Thirty years later, my struggle with heat intolerance became my sister's inspiration for Coolture."
With a permanent residence in Manhattan, Van worked in Miami, Spain, and Brazil when designing shoes for Unisa. With DKNY, his work took him to Italy, France, Spain, and Brazil. His idea of winding down took place at dance clubs, flea markets, museums, any opportunity to meet new people, which is still a motivator for Van.
Double-vision was the first sign to alert Van that something was wrong. He became unable to travel, was unable to walk without staggering. False diagnoses led to more and more testing while symptoms continued to multiply. Tremors crept into his hands, eventually affecting his limbs and head. With his arms and neck weighted with 5-lb straps, he was able to mobilize his tremors enough to feed himself; and when his bladder became paralyzed, he fought the tremors to catheterize himself four times a day. With the dots all connected, Van started steroid treatments for Multiple Sclerosis.
It was after Van's second two-month hospitalization that he returned to Buffalo, New York, where his parents nursed him through many years and just as many doctors. It would be eight years before he could live on his own again. Eight years before he could control a pencil to draw.
Warm weather and rooms; even a too-warm shower would turn Van turn from fully navigational to completely debilitated. It was this knowledge that set Van's sister, Luanne DiBernardo, into action. She challenged her brother to design a replacement for the cumbersome, heavy, industrial cooling vest he wore to manage the heat. She did the research. She learned that many chronic conditions became worsened in warm environments. And she learned something even bigger: that heat can -- and does -- bring the World's most conditioned athletes to their knees. Worse, to their death.
Van started sketching an improved design in 2008. Many versions were prototyped and testing over the course of the following years. Coolture was born in 2010, started manufacturing in 2013, and started selling online in 2014.
Today, Coolture has a growing catalogue of superior cooling solutions. But it's our catalogue of discriminating customers that most float our boat.