Voormi, based in Colorado, has developed a waterproof, breathable textile with only a single layer of material. The technological innovation is being touted as the next generation in outdoor clothing and the biggest achievement in the United States’ $1.5 billion outerwear industry since Gore-Tex in the 1970s.
“Our angle is to streamline waterproof breathables into a single-layer construction,” says Timm Smith, Voormi’s marketing director.
The Gore brothers originally revolutionized the waterproof fabric market with their Gore-Tex fabric in 1969: famously made of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE, the base material for Teflon). Later, when Gore-Tex’s main patent expired in 1997, clothing companies jumped at the opportunity to copy the product.
Unlike many previous waterproof-breathable fabrics, which require two layers to be useful, Voormi’s new technology allows a single-layer textile to carry a waterproof membrane. This makes the final product lighter, more flexible and appropriate for a wider range of uses.
Voormi’s fabric is innovative partly because it completely eliminates the need for fabric lamination, which had weighed down sports fabrics until now. “Rather than glue a membrane to a fabric, we put the membrane into a knitting machine, knitting a yarn in and around and through the membrane, so we get a single-layer textile with a (membrane) core that’s constructed in the process,” says Smith.
There is also a good dose of magic in the new technology, as this fabric bears thousands of minute holes, yet not only repels water, but also balances waterproofing with breathability – a function of the size of the holes.
Voormi’s technology is touted as feasible with any kind of membrane (not only waterproof ones) and almost any kind of yarn or mix of yarns. “It’s a whole new class of product where we can make a mid-layer that’s a single protective layer – a shirt I can run in and which blocks wind, but won’t get wet from sweat,” adds Smith.
The Drift Hydro jacket, a surprisingly soft outer shell layer, is the first of the company’s products to feature the new material. It costs $400 dollars. Voormi prides itself on its all-US sourced and made products and materials. The company’s staff includes textile engineers, chemists and other innovators, making up an entirely separate research and development department.
“There’s this very cool thing here that is only the very small tip of what’s actually going on [at Voormi],” says Smith. “The things you’ll start to see over the next few years, what you see today as Voormi will make sense in a much bigger context than people see right now.”