Steven Sal Debus has a long history of innovating in the Canadian fashion industry. In the mid-1990s, he took his Brock University business degree and launched Modrobes, the very Canadian, extremely popular pants, through a class project. That empire eventually folded but it didn’t damper Debus’s passion. He went on to appear on Dragons’ Den twice (once in an attempt to revive Modrobes, the other for a jean hanger), getting a deal both times, and played a major hand in developing the Vancouver athleisure company Duer.
The thing about serial entrepreneurs is that they have to keep innovating and creating. That’s how you get Volcanxx, Debus’s newest venture, which he bills as a “temperature-regulating shirt” made from active volcano sand.
The project goes all the way back to his days snowboarding in the late ’80s, when he found the popular wool and polyester materials too irritating to his skin. He finally found himself with the time to do something about it last year.
“I was at an apparel conference talking to one of the founders of The North Face and approached him after and said, ‘Is there anything going on in fabrics that’s better than wool or polyesters?’” Debus recalls. “And he said, ‘Yeah, some interesting stuff is going on with this active volcanic sand.’ I started looking into it and found the guys who were doing it, and basically started to put together my own recipe that involved volcanic sand with a couple other materials that just made it that much better.”
The shirts, made in Taiwan, allegedly adjust to the heat of your body and cool it down or warm it up, based on your temperature. The Kickstarter campaign launched today, and Debus hopes to get the full product out to Canadians in time for Christmas.
“Every other performance garment is passive,” Debus argues. "Which means they have to wait until you sweat to do the work. Basically, like rivers, they carve little channels into polyester and wool, so when you sweat, the channels break up the sweat and it flows out in a passive way. The difference with Volcanxx is it’s an active process—pulling the heat form your body when you’re too hot and then pushing heat back to your body when you’re too cold.”
Debus also has an innovative marketing plan to go with the shirts, hoping, given the COVID situation, to travel to locales throughout the province and establish vendors to sell them. “I love going to the mountain resorts we have in B.C., so if I can do that and set people up there and after that just put it online, I’ll be pretty happy, because getting out of the city and into these places is my dream,” he says. “That’s where I want to be.”
He plans to make pyjamas, sheets, socks and other products from the material, too.
“People are advertising the idea that wool is good for summer, and it’s just such a nonstarter; it’s not,” Debus says. “Wool is an insulator. Just want to give people a better alternative at this point. It’s a great fabric that can be used throughout the year, even if you’re not active all the time. Can use it in the office if you get cold—anything.”