GE will announce Nov. 16 details of an expanded B2B model for its membrane collection, most widely recognized for the Event fabric. That announcement coincides with a related unveiling of a new direction by Mountain Hardwear with the company’s DryQ collection using GE technology.
In exclusive interviews with SNEWS®, both Glenn Crowther, product line leader for GE’s performance fabrics, and Topher Gaylord, president of Mountain Hardwear, provided a more in-depth look at what the announcements will mean in innovation and business direction.
In June 2009, Crowther offered the first peek at the future for GE in the SNEWS article, “GE Energy decides to shift focus away from Event” (click here to read).
“It used to be all about marketing the Event brand and trying to grow the Event brand at the consumer level,” Crowther told us in 2009. “This (B2B shift) is not going to be about our brand, ever. It is going to be about our customers’ brands. We are going to provide fabric technologies that will excite product designers and developers with new and frankly very cool innovation.”
Focusing on business flexibility and innovation, GE has established a business model that enables it to work closely with customers to help them brand their own products with complete design freedom, unencumbered by supplier-mandated manufacturing and end-use controls, Crowther told us.
Crowther added that with this B2B structure GE is able to offer an expanded global network of lamination suppliers that provides its customers with more manufacturing resources than any other waterproof-breathable membrane supplier.
The first real indication of what the GE B2B shift will mean for both GE and is customers is evidenced by Mountain Hardwear.
“Mountain Hardwear came to us in 2009,” Crowther told us. “They were looking for the ultimate membrane, one that had historically been found only in the Event fabric.” During the course of working with Mountain Hardwear, GE not only provided the company with the membrane it needed to develop its own fabrics, but GE also helped develop several new laminates in the process.
“We have loved the relationship we have had with the team at GE,” Gaylord told SNEWS. “They were incredibly entrepreneurial in their approach to working with us. And that flexibility allowed us to create a line of products that share characteristics with Event, but are dramatically differentiated not only from Event but from any other product on the market today.”
For Mountain Hardwear, creating a clear point of differentiation was the driving force behind the creation of the new DryQ waterproof-breathable shell and soft shell product line.
“This project started with us establishing a mandate to challenge the status quo to find out what can be with our product,” said Gaylord.
At Mountain Hardwear, Gaylord said, four elements paved the way for the design and production team:
- Working to create the highest quality in every product.
- Understanding function is vital with any product design.
- Escaping “a sea of sameness” – Gaylord told us he remembers 15 to 20 years ago when he would get energized just walking the aisles of Outdoor Retailer or ispo to see all the “new and revolutionary technologies and product innovations.” Lately, though, he said “innovation appears to be rooted more in the form of fashion and style changes.” So, he directed the team to bring “differentiated and demonstrably proprietary technologies” to the market for 2011.
- Evolving the product aesthetic to embrace a more modern look in fit, color, design and style. To do that, Mountain Hardwear has brought all of its design team in-house over the last six months – a shift from the primarily contactor-based design team in prior years.
As part of challenging the status-quo, Gaylord told us Mountain Hardwear began asking its pro athletes what they liked and didn’t like about the current products, and what compromises they were putting up with, regardless of brand.
“Universally, they told us they would avoid pulling on a waterproof-breathable shell until it was more dangerous to get wet from the outside than getting wet from the inside,” said Gaylord.
Quickly, it became evident to Gaylord and the entire design team at Mountain Hardwear that what the company wanted to design and build did not exist yet.
“We made the decision to move completely upstream in our product development, and no longer go to large fabric suppliers like everyone else where you really only have choices they present to you from large binders,” said Gaylord. “When you do that, whether it is Gore or Polartec or Event, the only point of product differentiation comes really from design, fit and branding.”
So, Gaylord told us Mountain Hardwear started from scratch, with its design and fabrics teams spending months in Japan and other countries, working with GE and other companies on fabric development.
“We decided to differentiate our products from the ground up, and take not only an artisan approach to making the products, but also an artisan approach to creating the fabrics and materials we would use,” said Gaylord.
The result is a product line that incorporates glue compositions, tape, lamination and lamination machines, membranes and barriers, and fabrics that are unique to Mountain Hardwear.
And while the company continues to use Polartec products in its line, Mountain Hardwear has departed from the Gore-Tex family – the first significant brand to abandon what many still regard as an iconic supplier of waterproof-breathable fabrics.
Gaylord told us DryQ Elite eliminates a build-up of moisture inside a garment with a design and a membrane that is air permeable, meaning air and moisture are able pass outward through the fabric while preventing moisture from migrating inward from the outside.
The Mountain Hardwear DryQ line includes:
- DryQ Elite - In its “Snowear” and “Alpine” collections.
- DryQ Active – In the “Excel” sportswear collection, for lightweight stretch performance for active sports.
- DryQ Core – In Alpine, “Snowear” and “Mountain” collections.
The new fall 2011 line will debut at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2011.
Even with the changes, GE will continue to offer Event fabrics, Crowther told SNEWS, to customers in the outdoor, snowsports and cycling industries. What changes is that GE now will supply a full range of ePTFE membranes to customers for use in a variety of applications for the customer’s own branded uses. The entire collection of GE membrane and laminate technologies and new examples of Event fabrics outerwear, gear and footwear will be shown at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2011.
“We remain committed to and thankful for our legacy partners, who helped establish the Event name and helped lay the foundation for our success,” said Crowther. “I know I will miss someone, but it’s important to thank REI, Feathered Friends, Big Agnes, Granite Gear, Hincapie, Lake, Loki, Motorfist, Polaris, Rab, Sea to Summit, Teva, Kayland, Macpac, Hi-Tec, Chaco, Integral Designs, Karrimor, Tatonka, Trango, Ugg, CAMP, NRS, and all the many other brands who are Event customers.”