Anything you have ever wanted to ask about GORE-TEX [The editorial department saw visits Gore-Tex, USA].
What is the value of GORE-TEX?
What do we care most about when choosing outdoor clothing? Design, brand, functionality, price?
Each person has their own priorities and balance, but in the field of functionality, there is almost no one that doesn’t know the name GORE-TEX.
The other day, the new Gore-Tex Pro was just announced and has become a hot topic, but “Because it’s Gore, it’s waterproof”, “Because it’s Gore, it can’t be helped if it’s expensive” -Somehow, there are many that may feel that way. To be honest, I don’t really know the difference in function, but it is famous and has a high brand power. That’s the image that a lot of people hold right?
But what is the real story and appeal behind Gore-Tex?
It is true that the material is the most important factor that influences the functionality of outdoor wear, but there are many waterproof and breathable materials other than Gore-Tex.
However, what I have to admit is the brand power. Even ordinary people who do not do outdoor activities are aware that Gore-Tex is a high-quality brand.
To that point, I was asked by Gore-Tex Japan to participate in the press tour. I’m sure I can learn a lot by visiting Gore-Tex, USA. How did they succeed in increasing their brand power so much? We may find out the secret.
Visiting Gore-Tex, USA.
Gore’s Fabrics division is based in the United States in Newark, Delaware, about an hour from NY. I imagined it would be a huge building (Japanese intuition), but as expected, the United States has a larger land area than I could have thought.
It seems that facilities with different roles are scattered all over the city, and you need to take a bus between areas that are long way. When asked where and how many buildings there are, it seems that they cannot be announced from the perspective of military type secrecy. That’s American style! Just by seeing the scale of the operation I began to understand what type of company it is.
Media and influencers from Japan, South Korea, the United States, Germany, France, etc. participated in the press tour held in February 2020. Around this time, it became difficult to obtain masks and toilet paper in Japan, but no one had imagined that the current situation would develop into a global pandemic.
Gore-Tex products are not limited to clothing.
In the first place, Gore-Tex started in 1958 and used synthetic polymer PTFE for insulated cables and succeeded in the electronic equipment market. And the new polymer-stretched polytetrafluoroethylene (ePTFE) discovered by the founder’s son Bob Gore in 1969 can be said to be the basis of Gore-Tex today.
Gore-Tex and other Gore products are made from fluororesin called PTFE as a raw material and stretched using their unique technology (ePTFE), and are used in a variety of applications such as fabrics, filters, and medical applications.
The above photos show a raw membrane made by combining PTFE and polyurethane polymer. From film-like fabrics to fiber-like ones, they are used in all kinds of products, such as devices for the thoracic aorta, fishing lines, guitar strings, wiring cables, and speakers.
Aortic stent graft used for endovascular treatment. A wire-shaped metal is sewn on the artificial blood vessel. The reliability of Gore’s ePTFE products can be seen because they are important product that affects human life.
Gore’s fiber products are also used as a material for fishing lines that require strength. Gore fiber, an ePTFE material, has properties such as resistance to harsh environments, and is widely used in industrial, marine and space applications, and so on.
A corner of the spacious Capability Center Hall. All kinds of Gore products were on display.
The archive room is a treasure trove.
Since the birth of Gore-Tex wear in 1976, a number of products have been released by each manufacturer, and it was possible to enter the archive room where they are stored.
The archive room, which was established in 2008 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its founding, is a treasure trove. The humidity and temperature in the room is thoroughly controlled.
Marmot jacket (1976) where Gore-Tex was adopted for the first time in the world in clothing. At this time, the seam treatment has not been applied yet.
Various hang tags from the 70’s to 90’s.
Finally to the lab.
In the first half, I briefly touched on Gore’s products and history, but here is the actual production. We have set foot in a test lab, which is indispensable in the development of Gore-Tex products.
There are a surprising number of quality standards tested here, depending on the product category, such as waterproof testing, abrasion resistance testing, and washing testing. Only products that clear all of them will be delivered to the consumer.
In the rain test, experience the amount of rainfall equivalent to 150 mm per hour. The color of the wear is different on the left and right because the durable water repellent (DWR) processed and unprocessed fabrics are pasted together. Both of them are Gore-Tex fabrics, so of course water does not penetrate into the interior, but the unprocessed one gives a wet feeling that sticks to the skin. It was found that the comfort and sensible temperature change greatly depending on the difference in water repellency.
Waterproof test of footwear. Inflate shoes with Gore-Tex fabrics to wrap your foot and check for holes.
By the way, the left is the conventional specification (bag type as above) that is still used for boots. On the right is the Gore-Tex Invisible Fit, which integrates the upper and membrane. Eliminates wrinkles and creases and improves the fit. It has the same comfort as general running shoes, but also has waterproof and breathable properties.
There are countless washing machines in one corner of the lab. It’s a place to wash and dry repeatedly to check if layers and laminates are peeling off or if water repellency is maintained.
The fabric was tested for abrasion resistance by all means. In the laboratory that develops these tests, there are also occasions where the surface of the tested fabric is checked with a microscope.
An environmental room that can reproduce the climate of different parts of the world by changing the temperature, humidity, wind speed, etc. A sensor is installed in the central mannequin to measure the optimal temperature. By the way, the temperature can be adjusted from -50 ℃ to + 50 ℃.
Gore-Tex = high quality is not a mistake.
There are three key things I learned from this tour of Gore, USA.
One is that the Gore-Tex brand is unique and original
Applying the processing technology of ePTFE, not only in the outdoor field but also in the medical and aviation fields, it is thought that the fact that it brings social value also contributes greatly to their branding.
The second is that they are developing products by working hard with partner companies while thoroughly implementing quality control that cannot be imitated.
Gore-Tex Fabrics is not a material that any company can handle. It is necessary for manufacturers to make efforts to maximize their quality, and as a result, it seems that the brand value of companies that can meet such standards is also increased.
And the third is the feeling of trust garnered from the brand name and the feeling that you can pay a high price because it is Gore-Tex, which I mentioned at the beginning, was not a mistake.
It was a tour that cleared up any uncertainties that I had somehow until now, why it is of high quality and why it is so strongly supported by its fans.
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