History and savoir-faire

50 years of history and de savoir-faire

/ History and savoir-faire

50 years of history and savoir-faire

Since 1964, VSO manufacturing workshops have developed, acquiring savoir-faire that’s unique in Europe and setting the benchmark in the development of composite textile solutions. Our staff’s experience and expertise, combined with new technologies and materials boasting ever higher performance, have propelled VSO to the forefront in terms of innovation and ongoing design. Starting out as a little workshop making tarpaulins for the navy, set up by Gérard and Paule Bourdin in 1964, VSO now boasts a sleek, modern structure where we design and manufacture the biggest Big Tops in the world, as the Haute Couture expert in Big Tops. The firm shares a sense of circus thrills with the stars of circus and performing arts. VSO Big Tops and tents have forged a global reputation.


Gérard and Paule Bourdin set the firm up near the port in Bordeaux as a small workshop to manufacture tarpaulins for the navy. It soon took off with a positioning on emerging markets, breaking new ground with the use of modern composite performance textiles: Big Tops, tents and textile structures through to contemporary, tailored textile architecture.


Starting in 1965, Voilerie du Sud Ouest became a major player in its line of business. The Big Top line of business started to develop. In 20 years VSO was to become one of the biggest designers and manufacturers of Big Tops worldwide. The stars of circus and performing arts placed their trust in us. French Big Tops by VSO have forged a global reputation.


VSO moved into spanking new premises in the Artigues-près-Bordeaux industry park. The staff decided to industrialise the manufacturing process and set up integrated, modern facilities in a high-performance assembly line unique in France.


VSO joined the firm WALTER in Brumath (67) at the time the leading European manufacturer of standardised structures combining aluminium frames and synthetic covering membranes. WALTER bought out 99% of VSO’s capital. VSO then produced several structures still deemed to be references: the roof of Hall 2 at the Exhibition Park in Bordeaux – 15,000 sq.m in 1990, the Charléty stadium grandstand in Paris (Winner of the Equerre d’Argent 94) etc. Big Top Haute Couture was born!


In 1995, the firm was floated on the Stock Exchange, with a Supervisory Committee and Board of Directors. Production capacity and the skills of technical staff were boosted. VSO was the first in the business to obtain OPQCB qualification.


In 1998, the existing production plant was fully refurbished and enlarged to 3,000 sq.m and fitted with a LECTRA SYSTEMS cutting machine, 10 state-of-the-art, computer-controlled HF welding machines, with laser-guided navigation, 1 PTFE welding machine, 6 sewing machines, 3 eyeletting machines, 2 abraser machines. This industrial site also comprises 300 sq.m of office space, a 150-sq.m locksmithing workshop, 300-sq.m storage space for raw materials and a 400-sq.m “Finished Products” structure. In France VSO covered the Zénith concert hall in Montpellier, the ANIMAGIQUE and CINEMAGIQUE theatres at Disneyland in Paris, the dome of the LENS Racing Club (58.00 m in a single piece x 78.00 m long) and the itinerant PHENIX theatre ( 53.00 x 73.00 m, without any intermediate support). Abroad, VSO built the 72,000-seat Olympic stadium in Rades, Tunisia, the ERASMUS metro terminal in Brussels, the 60.30 m x 107.00 m GALAXY big top in the Netherlands and many Big Tops and tents for the Circus du Soleil.


When Walter filed for bankruptcy, BHD bought the firm out on the strength of VSO’s unique savoir-faire and international references. It provided new resources and a new ambition to reposition VSO on its time-honoured savoir-faire: Big Tops for the circus, marquees and textile architecture. VSO thus joined BHD in 2003, reinforcing its technical capacity and expanding its lines of business to meet the new requirements of organisers and the public. Quality, effectiveness and savoir-faire are the watchwords for the organisation, which handles everything from A to Z to produce structures with an absolute guarantee of safety (consistency, compliance with deadlines) and cost control. This integration, combined with the great experience of our staff and selected suppliers, has helped VSO forge its unrivalled reputation worldwide, thus winning the trust of many clients and paving the way to the most ambitious of projects.> Check out BHD.


VSO staff strive every day to manufacture Big Tops for the circus and events, creative, unique structures shaped by our passion for performing arts and fabric. New materials and developing manufacturing techniques hold out plenty of promise for our savoir-faire.

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