From the snow, Klim's gear soon made its way onto the backs of hardcore enduro riders who, like snowmobilers, need highly technical apparel that can stand up to a good thrashing out on the trail. It was about 2004 and the company followed the same formula established when developing snowmobile gear, a process that started with asking, "What does the end-user need?" The company takes careful note to incorporate the wants and needs of real riders into developing its products.
Summers points out that Klim's designers are all big-time riders who listen to the market to build products unlike anything already out there. Take Klim's product developer Edward Wilkinson, whose R&D process includes logging thousands of miles on the road, criss-crossing North America.
In fact, all of Klim's gear design, development and testing is done in-house, says Jesse Ziegler, the company's communications guy, adding that most involves the person and other people who started the company. "There is no outsourcing to designers and developers or factory liaisons. We have employees doing all of that," Ziegler says.
Naturally, with the explosive growth of the adventure-riding market, Klim is targeting those dual-sport riders with gear like the Badlands Pro pant/jacket and the Latitude pant/jacket, both pieces of gear designed for abuse and comfort. The benchmark for this market is the rider going all the way to Alaska, by way of South America, Summers adds.
All of the products designed for these markets are built to a set of company principles that include:
- Quality is a process
- The ingredients to success are the parts that make the whole
- Partnering with the right vendor is key
- Quality, quality, quality
- Not concerned with price point, high volume or playing it safe
FABRIC GETS A THRASHING. So what does all of this mean? It means that well before Klim starts building a jacket or pant, the materials that go into these products undergo a barrage of tests before the first stitch is sewn. And this is where Klim's relationship with Gore comes into play. The technology giant is more than a vendor to Klim; it's more like a product development partner.
As Gore account manager Doug Graham explains it, the partnership between the two companies is unique, with each one bringing a different skill set to the table. All development projects between the two companies have been a very collaborative effort, Graham explains.
The thing is, Gore is a unique company. Back in 1958 it's founder, Bill Gore, left DuPont after 17 years as a research chemist to explore the capabilities of some of the new polymers of the time, most notably polytetrafluoroethylene or PTFE (commonly known by its brand name, Teflon). Gore discovered that PTFE had some unique applications in fabrics, thus Gore-Tex was born.
Gore is also involved in the medical products market (it developed a tube-like prosthesis used to treat aortic aneurysms and a 3D imaging system, among other things), electronics industry and has been involved in helping to develop astronaut space suits. Think about this the next time you're marveling over Gore-Tex's ability to keep you cozy and dry during a torrential rainstorm in the Rockies.
The scope of products manufactured by Gore is expansive. Even more amazing is the amount of R&D and testing that the Gore-Tex products go through.
The company has very exacting standards, not only with the products that it develops, but with the manufacturers that it partners with. Why? For one, it's part of the corporate culture inculcated by Bill Gore. Two, it offers a 100 percent guarantee on the products another manufacturer makes using Gore's materials. So, if you make a jacket using the Gore-Tex membrane, Gore offers a 100 percent guarantee that jacket will be waterproof. You bet Gore is selective about who it partners with.
Gore's ability to make such a guarantee lies in the fact that it subjects its materials to a whole battery of tests to the materials it produces. During a visit earlier this year to the Gore facilities in Elkton, Md., a group of journalists got a first-hand look at the hurt Gore puts on fabrics that are laminated with Gore-Tex. (In Klim's case, Gore supplies the Gore-Tex membrane that Klim's fabrics are laminated with.)
"We do a lot of testing," says Graham, who serves as a liaison to Klim. "If you're going to have a product that's best in class, you have to know what you're doing, [and measure how you do it.]"
It's here that one can learn that a rain room is exactly what is sounds to be. Technician Michelle Leckington explained in great technical detail how much water is sprayed over mannequins wearing the fabric in an effort to get it to leak, somewhere, along a seam or zipper. Rest assured, the recent Hurricane Irene doesn't have anything on the rain room when it comes to dumping water. (continued)