You know Gore-Tex. You probably wear it. But, it’s also very likely that you don’t actually know how the hell it works. You just know that it keeps you dry and it keeps you warm — basically, you know if you put on a jacket that’s made with it, you’ll be comfortable no matter the conditions and you don’t really need to think about much more than that. And Gore knows that fact — it’s banking on it.
Inside its Delaware-Maryland based HQ, comprised of more than a dozen buildings, the staff isn’t compelled to continuously educate the public on the strides made each year to outshine any other competitor. Their main focus is science, rigorous testing and working hand-in-hand with outdoor brands, medical companies and the US government to develop cutting-edge products, whether those are intended for walking in the Scottish Highlands, shredding down Whistler’s Blackcomb Peak or for a military use that they’re not at liberty to discuss.
“We improve the membranes all the time. The consumers make a lot of associations with Gore-Tex: ‘I’m going to be more comfortable in it. I’ll have more fun in it.’ Whether you’re riding or walking your dog, we just stick with those associations,” says 25-year veteran Gore associate Todd Folmsbee. “We want to make sure whatever that glove or footwear or jacket is, it’s going to outperform your expectations.”
If you’re a visitor to the materials company, it’s rare to get beyond Gore’s Barksdale facility, a 70s era structure that was retrofitted in 2007 to introduce outsiders to its brand history, precise functionality and range of products. Before that, it wasn’t possible to even get past the front desk. Gore’s founder, Bill Gore, made a decision fairly early on to apply for few patents — meaning the ins-and-outs of how the company’s innovative products are made and improved is kept as internal Intellectual Property. Over the last sixty years and counting, everything at Gore, among some 9,500 employees, has been on a need to know basis. There is a chance, however, if you bring along a professional snowboarder like Mark Sollors — who hasn’t ridden his board in the last four years without Gore-Tex and who’s a team rider for Burton, one of Gore’s strongest brand partnerships — it’s possible to peek behind the curtain, or at least some of it.