Enzo Volante had been designing characters and costumes since he was in the second grade, but it wasn't until he graduated college that he learned how to design patterns and make clothes. It was a necessity: he had no job and he needed something to wear.
Just because it was a necessity didn't mean he was going to wear just anything, mind. "I was bored with always having to wear a T-shirt and jeans, and wanted to make something to break the norm," Volante explained to me in an interview. Being that he grew up on action games, Marvel, Capcom, DC, what 'out of the norm' meant was very specific. The characters in this media wear outstanding things, after all—stuff that most ordinary people wouldn't wear.
"The first designs I did in the early spirit of [Volante Design] were sort of way out there, mostly impractical for the street, but practical to wear," Volante recalls. They were the sort of clothes that caught the eye of performers, like circus folk and firespinners. As in, the type of folk who had plenty of confidence, and wouldn't mind standing out because of what they were wearing.
But Volante wasn't in it to boost the confidence of folks who already had it. He wanted to "bring out that sense of personal power in people who aren't already willing to stand up in front of hundreds of people and spin a flaming stick." Clothes would be the perfect avenue to do it: the cooler you feel about what you're wearing, the more confidence you're likely to exude.
Around this time—three years ago—that Volante saw fan redesigns of superheroes everywhere. They were good, he notes, but they weren't coming from people who designed clothes.
Maybe he could do better? He would go on to start his first design based on an existing franchise—Assassin's Creed. "I noticed a trend in the games: not much was changing with the modern day assassins, except for the fact that with each installment, Desmond's hoodie was slightly cooler. And I wondered, where the hell does he buy his hoodies? I set out to become the place where protagonists buy their awesome clothes."
He designed an Assassin hoodie that could be considered the "next logical step" for Desmond's sweatshirt. It looked fantastic, but more importantly, this was around when Volante Design cemented one of their core tenets: fashion that would make ordinary people feel extraordinary.
"The business was founded on this sort of build-your-own-hero-wardrobe idea, I offered custom everything," Volante says. Custom everything made clothes pricey. That didn't deter people from taking notice; order volume might've been low, but the interest for his sort of product was high. He was making eye-catching clothes, after all.
But eventually, the business took enough traction that keeping it entirely a one-man operation became impossible. He took on interns and part-timers, which helped, but nothing could prepare him for the onslaught that would come after he designed The Kenway Hoodie in September 2012, right before the release of Assassin's Creed 3. You might be familiar with the design—we posted about it last year, and it was one of our most popular articles. Heck, if you Google "Assassin's Creed hoodie," Volante's design is one of the first results.
His inbox blew up. He decided to make a website, put the Kenway on it, and he took on three times the orders he had taken over the course of a year and a half leading up to that point. He sold out in five hours, and had to hire some extra hands. As you might expect, not all of this attention was positive per se. Other folk would go on to copy his design, at a cheaper price—and at lower quality. The issue was that people would associate Volante's product with something they didn't actually make, which hurts the brand. But beyond that, Volante Design also came across "copyright difficulties" which they're not at liberty to talk about.
Still, it's fascinating to hear Volante talk about the design in Assassin's Creed. It's clear that he has an eye for fashion.
"I love the Assassin designs, but to be completely honest, I hate how physically impossible some of them are. Connor, for instance, I wont get started on how the tails make no sense. But his jacket fits him like a glove...but is supposedly hanging open. I don't care how fitted your jacket is, it doesn't work like that. He's got a quiver, and straps, but nothing is holding his jacket to him below the ribcage. In fact, he's got a gun belt that would be pulling the jacket OPEN, rather than holding it close to him."
"My favorite design from the entire series if the Renegade multiplayer character from Revelations. It just has everything I like: boots, giant pants, cool lines, fitted torso but loose everywhere else. Straps, buckles, hanging bits. Scarf, badass mask. And a horrifying fishing hook spear as the cherry on top."
Nowadays, Volante Design is a three-man operation with a better capacity for taking orders than when it first started. To wit, the recently launched "Kestrel," a hooded jacket "for the protagonist on-the-go," is taking as many orders as Volante Design gets. Here it is, in "motion"—which is intentional, as Volante has started focusing on "superhuman streetwear."
Anyone can wear it, but those of you who are more mobile will find it suits their needs well.
This collection deliberately doesn't make reference to any specific games or characters, but judging from Volante's prior designs, you can probably bet they'll be the type of clothes any fashionable hero—even an assassin—would love to wear.