Rene Gaemers and Simon van Lammeren are the brains behind XION® Protective Gear. Made initially to protect stunt professionals, their products featuring D3O® technology are now used by skiers, snowboarders, motorcyclists and even special forces soldiers.
How did XION® get started?
Simon: We were both involved in stunts for film and television and were mainly working with bulky, rigid protection pads at that time. Wearing them underneath the wardrobe was usually a no go because the camera could see it, so it was usually a choice between wearing pads or not, which is a bad choice. Also in terms of impact protection, the foam parts of the pads often got entirely pushed-in by the ridged shell, so you ended up with bruises.
How did you first hear about D3O?
Simon: Back in 2005 we saw an article in a magazine about D3O and we thought it could be good for the stunt market. When we first visited, you were still in an empty office with a whiteboard working out what markets to start working with. Stunts obviously wasn’t there.
Rene: We got a demonstration of what the goo could do. It looked very impressive and like something we had been looking for, in the sense that it’s flexible with no restriction in movement. We started to design something for ourselves to fit our own need, trying to get the best way to make it work. We were always convinced that D3O® technology was a much better option than any other foam or pad out there and we still are.
From stunts, you moved into winter sports. How did that decision come about?
Rene: A lot of the stunt guys and girls that we worked with were also doing extreme sports. They’re all sports fanatics. So, before you knew it we were getting requests from sports all over the world.
Simon: The snow sports market was the hottest one for us at that time. Protection is always secondary to what people are doing. They need to wear it but they’d prefer not to. So, if it’s comfortable and you don’t notice you’re wearing it, it doesn’t restrict your movement, then it makes most of the people very happy. We’ve managed to achieve that and lots of riders are now choosing XION®.
What sort of feedback do you get from customers using XION® products?
Simon: I remember one guy from TheGoodRide who said he was going down the hill, flew through the air and hit his back on an ice patch. He thought he was going to have broken every bone in his body, but realised when he got up that nothing was wrong. That’s absolutely brilliant, those are the things you want to hear.
Rene: Another guy from America crashed his KTM in the desert. He was testing our kit and didn’t see a tree that had crashed across the road and smashed through it. He said, ‘I should have broken every bone in my body, there was nothing left of the motorcycle, the whole front was gone’, but he didn’t have a scratch or a mark on him. We get quite a number of those stories.
The PPE market has been a big growth area for XION®. Was it difficult to get into that space?
Simon: We created a new product line for our free ride range and parallel to that we’d always tried to push the product in the PPE market. Rene had contacts involved in riot control as he is an ex-military police man and police officer in Amsterdam.
Rene: The special forces are usually the first adaptors. They’re usually able to decide their own budget and what they spend their money on. We figured that would be the route to market. If we could get those guys to like it, that would be proof it worked and it would work down the ladder.
Was it difficult to convince the military and police forces that low-profile, flexible armour was better?
Rene: Blunt trauma protection has always been a lesser area of interest than ballistics. Throughout the decades, when a tender was written they would just copy and paste what the requirements were. A certain type of foam, mounted on plastic with straps. That’s basically what everyone has seen blunt trauma protection as over the years. A lot of our time has been spent educating, through the special forces of many countries, what blunt trauma protection could be now.
Have they changed their views? What sort of feedback have you had?
Rene: The problem with PPE is that you can’t just go around telling everybody like you would with sports goods. But with the network we have now, I can connect people. I have ambassadors within the air force, navy, SWAT teams, whatever, that are willing to give testimonials to other teams that are interested. They are so enthusiastic about the gear that I don’t have to sit in on the conversation. I know they’re going to say ‘this is great, you all should wear this and it helped us’.
What’s next for XION® in 2018?
Simon: Basically, expanding on the PPE market. We started a project with Triumph last year and we’re supplying them with kit for the first time in December. It’s an undergarment jacket with D3O® chest, back and elbow protection. In sports, we’re expanding mainly in Europe and we now have a distributor in China. We’ve got a dedicated social media team working on our brand visibility. We always link the new stuff back to stunts as the customers like the story behind it. We get testimonials in all the time.