Wearable Hydration Technology - Qore Performance

I Made a Real Thing.

by J.D. Willcox April 29, 2015

No matter what else I do in business, I can say this: I made something.

Not many other things can make me smile like this…

Yes, you haven't seen this product yet. But you will soon.

What, you say? It looks just like any other base-layer shirt? YES! That is actually the greatest compliment you can pay me. Because it’s a lot harder to make stuff than you think. But it’s actually a lot easier too, because if you design it right, it comes together like magic. Let me try to explain.

A couple years ago, Justin came up to me with a ridiculous looking pair of underwear that he said was going to change the world. Now, I’m naturally a skeptic, but you would have been too if you saw these first shorts. But, they seemed to work – kind of.

I'm not going to tell you about the story of how our product line was invented - that's a good story for another time. Instead, I want to show you a few things about how our garments are made. Because they are the unsung hero of the thermoregulatory puzzle, and there are details you may not think about when you are out there playing - but rest assured that is all by design. Literally.

The Fabric:

Here's our fabric being made on a beautiful and precise machine in New England.

 

It gets made 500-1200 yards at a time. That's a lot of fabric, so keep on ordering, we've got plenty.

Then when it gets made, we ship it to the factory. Heavy 2 foot by 5 five foot rolls are not the easiest things to ship...so it makes sense to do a bunch at once. When we get it done, we send it to our factory.

Here's what our fabric bins at our factory looks like. No, we're not the only company there - we have our own space though. Thus far, we've been doing black fabric. Nothing beats black. It's sleek, stylish, and discreet. Here's a roll of our special blend:

We've learned a lot of things about textiles. This here is a roll of our main fabric, about 100 yards of it, a 60" wide nylon/spandex blend with a number of permanent treatments to make it utterly fantastic to wear. This fabric roll here might make 500 shorts. We did a lot of evaluation to find this for you, and we count on it for a lot of different things. Most every Qore Performance product you own will have this fabric as the durable, soft, stretchy, and moisture-wicking foundation. It plays really nicely with mesh, and it's of course completely USA made.

So, next is to roll out some fabric and cut it. But have you ever tried to cut something stretchy in a precise way? It is not easy. Stretchy things shrink when they are left to rest. In order to make sure what you get fits the way we designed it and it can be sewn perfectly right, there are a couple things that need to be done. One is to get rid of that shrinking. Here's the fabric being laid out to rest before being cut.

After that, the challenge is to make it stay perfectly flat when cut. Then the machines take over (don't blink) - the top sheet you see is to protect the fabric and works as a seal so it stays flat:

 

Once the fabric is cut, we make things pretty. Heat transfers don't really add anything but coolness factor to a product. But I think it adds a lot of that, some first adopter flair - so your friends will say "where did you get that??" That's why we started using the Bold Q and the Seam runner. We paid up to get the good stuff (seriously, you can get the cheap ones but these are 4x the cost for 20x the durability) so they stay on through all your adventures. These heat transfers come on enormous rolls. 

Next time that you think "hey, can I get like 10 of those?" the answer is yes - but it costs only a little more to have 10,000 of them. So, you know, think about it. These get sealed onto the fabric (before sewing), then the construction process begins.

Here are two workhorse machines that build those super flat and comfortable seams we insist on as athletes. First, with the six spools is the flatlock, for the wider seams and larger openings. For smaller openings, we use a precision machine that produces a thinner but just as strong and flat seam. For our full arm sleeve, this machine is key because we are extending the sleeve past the point of any other arm sleeve on the market to be able to comfortably and accurately target your radial artery in your wrist.

Here's a test piece going through the machine with some real speed. Raise your hand if you want us to make pink!

 

Pretty cool - when you design it right, these machines crank. But it still takes real American craftsmen to do it right - with steady hands, and an attention to detail. Here's some work on the flatlock machine, and putting in some gripper elastic for our half arm sleeve (which is really useful for keeping everything in place during high speed throwing). Sorry for the vertical video - this was from back before I understood about delivering video content on the web ;p

 

We've been really fortunate to find a great partner to help make our stuff, and one of the reasons that has been so useful is that they also have in-house design capability, so we can iterate live. Here's a snippet of us deciding where to put the logo and adding it to the pattern for the shirt I'm wearing above.

 

So what does this all mean? It means that you get garments that seem familiar, and comfortable, and you can focus on playing your game while getting the added cooling benefit. You don't need to think about how the shorts are specially articulated to move with your body, or how the full arm sleeve works like a second skin to make sure the cooling inserts sit in place at just the right spots on your body. You won't need to think about how the shirt doesn't twist against itself because we extended the bottom hem one inch lower and shaped the bottom of the sleeve opening. Instead, you'll trust what you get from us to fit right and be simple to use. The hard part is in the design, but as we have relentlessly worked through that, your feedback and our great manufacturing partners have made it reproducible and of the highest quality - all without leaving American shores. We're proud of that and we're proud to bring you this level of attention to detail.

So, now you know more about what you are wearing. A little bonus if you've made it to the end - we're bringing some color into your life soon. Here are some hints. And if making stuff fascinates you the way it does me, shoot me an email - maybe the next thing I wear will be something you make!

J.D.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 





J.D. Willcox
J.D. Willcox

Author


Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.