In the year 2000, Van DiBernardo moved from Manhattan back to his childhood home of Buffalo, New York, where he believed he was returning to die.
My name is Luanne DiBernardo, and Van -- a former DKNY shoe designer -- is my brother. His diagnosis with Multiple Sclerosis halted a career that took him to Spain, Italy, France, and Brazil. By the time Van left New York for the last time, he was completely debilitated.
It took almost a year to identify that a warm room, a hot shower, even his own body heat from physical therapy could set Van back for days, even weeks.
After sourcing an industrial cooling vest to keep Van cool, he was able to ramp up his physical therapy and outdoor activities without fear of overheating. The next problem to resolve was the vest itself -- it was unattractive, bulky, and soaked his clothes from condensation. I can still remember the day I slid a sketchbook and #2 across the table and said, "You're a designer, Van; design a cooling vest that kicks this one to the curb."
After testing prototypes and textiles, Van sported what would become the first in its category: a lifestyle cooling vest. The success of that garment inspired Coolture, our first company, which went live in 2013.
It took several years to understand that our target market came with a unique set of challenges: people with compromised health have compromised incomes -- and our cooling vest was not reimbursable by insurance. By 2019, high on innovation but short on capital, we succumbed to our inevitable closure. It was then that our manufacturer made us an offer we couldn't refuse. An athlete himself, Tom Burns offered us a fresh new start.
The minute we reorganized as Oro Sports & Safety, the prototyping began -- a new brand with new products aimed at new markets. We currently have four patents pending, and two more ready to roll in advance of their 2024 launch.
Our passion towards solving a common, but complex, problem with a simple solution is the reason we do what we do. Our secret sauce is hard work, personal sacrifice, and and a strong desire to help others. Quality of life is a choice that begins and ends with each of us. Improving quality of life for others is a commitment that, for us, began with Van.