This month, sportswear innovator Y-3 introduced a collection made using some of the lightest GORE-TEX on Earth. Y-3’s new long coat weighs just 356 grams (12.6 ounces) and repels water and wind with the obduracy of any other GORE-TEX garment, but is a far cry from George Costanza’s bloated puffer.
The difference between the Y-3 coat and a standard GORE-TEX parka is more than modern styling. Thanks to a technology called SHAKEDRY, weatherproof apparel can now be made lighter, packable, and more breathable than ever.
But what is SHAKEDRY and how does it work? To unravel the science behind the new material, we went straight to the source.
“Usually, GORE-TEX is composed of a face fabric with a membrane layer underneath that acts as the barrier to rain,” explains Johannes Ebert, a product specialist who leads SHAKEDRY partnerships at W.L. Gore & Associates. “With SHAKEDRY, the face fabric is eliminated.”
As well as the hard-wearing face fabric and waterproof membrane, GORE-TEX also usually comes with a smooth next-to-skin lining. Without the face fabric, scrapes and scratches would destroy the membrane, and without the lining, oils in sweat could clog the micropores that allow the membrane to breathe.
These layers are laminated together to form a fabric that, while bulky, is durable, weatherproof, and breathable. With each layer crucial to letting the membrane do its job, the heft and occasional discomfort of a GORE-TEX jacket has long been seen as a necessary evil.
According to Ebert, what prompted SHAKEDRY’s development was consumer dissatisfaction. Daily users were annoyed at the face fabric losing its water-repellent coating over time and casual users noticed their garments felt heavier and colder after rain. Gore sensed a simple solution, but as with any sort of weight loss, “simple” and “easy” weren't necessarily the same thing.
“We started our exploration in the high-aerobic space, primarily running and road cycling,” says Ebert. “These are clear end uses, and we know that our standard GORE-TEX products aren’t winners here because of their weight and pack volume.”
As it doesn’t have a face fabric, SHAKEDRY required Gore engineers to design a new family of membranes. These new layers had to meet the needs of cardio-intensive sports while carrying all the functionality of the fabric they were replacing: mechanical strength, comfort to the touch, and even receptiveness to color. They also had to meet certain international standards to be described as waterproof. The solution? A redesigned surface that’s more than skin-deep.
On the outside, SHAKEDRY is engineered to have a persistent "beading" property, meaning water can be literally shaken off the surface. On the inside, the membrane is air-permeable, so your body's moisture can immediately escape through an open, porous layer.
“SHAKEDRY has what we call an ‘instant breathability,’" says Ebert. "Most of our GORE-TEX membranes are engineered to maximize protection, with a long lifetime. In this case, we tried to optimize towards comfort.” How much any fabric breathes depends on removing blocks inside and out. SHAKEDRY does both.
While Y-3 is the most fashion-forward brand to use the tech so far, lightweight, ultra-breathable GORE-TEX is making inroads across the industry under another name: INFINIUM. “This technology has also evolved and developed under the GORE-TEX INFINIUM brand,” says Ebert. “We have different angles where lifestyle brands are connected. Under INFINIUM, there are very creative innovations coming out this season.”
The Mammut Ultimate Pro, a quick-drying softshell from the brand’s new Delta X line, uses INFINIUM to improve the jacket’s comfort and appearance. The garment, made from a single piece of material, weighs just 275 grams (9.7 ounces).
Today’s fashion customers are demanding more of their clothes than ever. A color-blocked SHAKEDRY garment — Ebert says colors, coatings, and even 3D prints can be applied to the material — might make for the most functional “reimagined” windbreaker ever. Plus, if “Hey Ya” comes on at a party, well… you know what to do.