Ondřej Bank, owner of the Vagus brand, gave us an interview while testing prototypes of ski helmets.
An integral part of any ski or snowboarding equipment is head protection, i.e., a well-fitting, high-quality, and safe helmet. There are several helmet manufacturers on the market, among which the Czech brand Vagus stands out.
The Vagus brand was founded by one of the most famous and successful Czech alpine skiers, Ondřej Bank. Already during his active sports career, he started his own project, and with his team he began to produce products that stand out from the rest in terms of design and features. After ski goggles and textiles, Vagus included helmets in its portfolio, designed for both professional racers and hobby athletes.
Vagus is a local Czech brand and prides itself on the fact that the development and production of helmets is localized in the Czech Republic. We are therefore very happy to be part of the whole process and that Vagus decided to test and certify their helmets in our Mechanical Equipment Test Station.
During the testing of the new prototypes at SZU, we interviewed the owner of the brand himself, Mr. Ondřej Bank:
What gave you the idea to start your own brand?
"At the time when I started to become more established and successful in skiing, I needed to deal more and more with the financial side of things. Back then, skiing wasn't as popular in our country as it is today, and it was difficult to get sponsors and financial support. So, one of the motives was a certain degree of financial independence. The other motive was that I didn't like the racing equipment at that time. There was such a disconnect between functionality and design. Either things were functional but didn't look good in terms of design, or it was the other way around. I wanted to combine both, both nice design and functionality."
If you were to look back, what has been the biggest challenge for the Vagus brand so far?
"We have had to deal with a number of challenges since the beginning. From the beginning, the biggest challenge for us has been the helmets, that we test at SZU, because apart from the financial challenge, it is challenging to design and manufacture everything to meet both our expectations and safety standards. In the helmets, we also started to develop a skeleton helmet, tailor-made for the Czech national team member Anna Fernstädt, which was something completely new for us. However, I like challenges and I'm not afraid to do crazy things."
In which markets are Vagus products available?
"At the moment, we are selling mainly in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and a few pieces will also make it to Austria or Germany, but we still have reserves for more expansion. Right now, we are mainly focusing on development and quality production with our team.”
And now something about the production itself. Do you produce in the Czech Republic or abroad, or a combination?
"As far as the helmets are concerned, the complete development and production takes place in our country, we can say directly in Moravia region. We also produce the textiles in the Czech Republic. Of course, there are some things that cannot be produced in the Czech Republic because there is no production for them here, but we try to get everything that comes here to us."
What makes your helmets unique? Is it the material used, the original shape, the design or something else?
"It's a combination of the factors mentioned. We use Kevlar, we try to use the best material available for all the parts of our helmets. At the same time, we try to apply my experience from the Skiing World Cup. Comfort, weight ratio and safety are also important. Making a helmet that is both comfortable and meets the certification for Kitzbühel and the World Cup is not easy. That's why the combination of design and functionality is what makes our helmets unique."
It is known that the famous Czech snowboarder Eva Samková also rode with your helmets. Has Vagus reached other professionals, even from abroad?
"Yes, this is another thing we would like to develop further. We have now started to work with company Kästle on the development and we are working on the linings and internal safety of the helmets. I've been a test rider myself so far, but we'd like to get someone else on board as well. Eva Samkova rode our helmet from 2014 until last year."
Are you planning to develop helmets for other sports as well? As mentioned, you have made a helmet for skeleton. What about, for example, cycling, helmets for skateboarding, etc.?
"We will see. The logical development is moving towards that. It would be nice to venture into cycling as well, but the process is very lengthy, especially when we do everything ourselves. We certainly don't want to just order a cycling helmet made in China, although the choice is there, but we are going down the route of developing and manufacturing our own."
And let me ask you one last question. How would you evaluate the cooperation with the SZU so far?
"We came to SZU naturally when we started to deal with the certification of our helmets. And the cooperation has been fine. We are happy to have the Czech certificate and to be able to do ongoing development tests of our various prototypes."
Thank you very much for the interview and we wish you all the success not only with the further development of your brand.