There’s a new waterproof/breathable fabric coming out from Gore. In a heralded media presentation with company executives on September 30, W. L. Gore & Associates announced that it’s introducing expanded Polyethylene (ePE) membrane as a new complementary material platform to serve as the basis for its membrane technologies. The new ePE membrane will appear in Gore-Tex brand consumer products beginning in the Fall/Winter 2022 season, with brands Adidas, Arc’teryx, Dakine, Patagonia, Reusch, Salomon and Ziener all rolling out new products, including outdoor and lifestyle garments, lifestyle footwear and snowsports gloves, with the material.
On hand in the presentation were Gore executives Matt Decker, global technical; Nora Stowell, global sales and marketing; and Matt Schreiner, global sustainability.
The new material, said Decker, is a micro-porous form of polyethylene, previously not suitable for use in waterproof/breathable apparel. But Gore was able to “engineer the right properties into it.” “It’s a brand new complementary material set; its introduction is a first in our 40 years,” Deckers said. “And it’s a functional foundation for much broader sustainability systems we’re working on.”
Reaffirming Gore’s commitment to both performance and sustainability, Gore’s new ePE membrane, which, when combined with polyurethane (PU) results in a durable, windproof/waterproof/breathable fabric, has a high strength-to-weight ratio, making it lightweight and thin, and offers durable performance with a low environmental footprint, thanks to a low membrane mass that results in a lower carbon footprint (as measured by Higg MSI). It also advances Gore’s goal of being PFC-free for its consumer products by using non-fluorinated materials. In short, it achieves strength and toughness while reducing weight and thickness, all in a waterproof/breathable material.
“We have a long-lasting history of balancing what’s right for business and the planet,” said Schreiner. “This is durable performance meets low-environmental impact, and tells us we’re heading in the right direction. Our customers have expectations of us as a responsible manufacturer and this is the next milestone in that journey. There’s increasing consumer demand for high-performance fabrics with low-environmental impact.”
Bluesign-approved, its low carbon footprint owes itself to a lower mass in the manufacturing process, from being lighter and thinner, he added. It’s also PFC-free, meaning less chemical impacts, and is extremely durable, spelling a long product life and keeping it in service longer, also helping the environment.
“A lot of our partners have put a stake in the ground tube PFC-free,” said Stowell, adding Gore plans to put it to as many uses as it can. “The industry and consumers are asking for it.”
And it performs. “Without the guarantee to keep you dry, it wouldn’t be a Gore-Tex product,” said Decker. “It meets all our standards to be durable, waterproof and comfortable.”
He added that company founder Bob Gore, who passed away last September, played a big role in its development, testing one of the original ePE jackets. “He quickly became an advocate when there were many skeptics,” he said. “He understood that markets and technology change over time and that this was a natural extension of our history and a natural tie to our heritage, that it was a significant step and milestone toward reaching new levels of performance and sustainability.”
As for marquee brands getting on board with the new material and adopting it in their product line-up for Fall/Winter 2022, that speaks volumes as well. “It carries a lot of weight that respected brands like this are part of the launch,” said Stowell. “It speaks to the trust and confidence they have in us.”
Developing it wasn’t easy, added Decker, especially building it to scale. “It took 12 years from when we first started conceiving what it could be to delivering a commercial product,” he said. “We knew it showed promise, but it also had its known deficiencies. We had to figure out what properties we needed to add to it and then test it exhaustively, both the membrane and the products themselves.”
“It’s an incredibly exciting and seminal moment for us,” he said, adding they’re already testing what’s next for the next ePE generation. “It’s an enormous milestone toward sustainability, not our first or our last, but we’re keeping an eye on the future as well. It’s very much a journey.”
Photo courtesy Gore