Northwest River Supplies (NRS) has inked a deal with Gore-tex to bring the high-end waterproof/breathable fabric into a new drywear line. Previously, W.L. Gore & Associates had only worked with paddlesports apparel maker Kokatat in the drywear paddling space.
“Outside of becoming employee-owned in 2014, this is one of the most exciting things that’s ever happened to our company,” said drywear product manager Danny Mongno. “Several other companies have dipped their toes into working with them, but Gore-Tex holds its partners to incredibly high standards.”
Kokatat declined to comment on NRS’s new partnership.
NRS had already been upping its drywear game, moving to a different factory in Asia in 2021, rolling out new zippers and more, said Mongno. All this helped it land the deal with Gore-tex. “We’ve been making great strides to be a leader in drywear and have been competing at the top level, so we feel like we’ve been moving into this space for a number of years,” he said. “But this is the cherry on top of it all.”
Previously, NRS has used (and will continue to use) a fabric called Eclipse in its drywear line, developed in conjunction with its Asian manufacturing partner. Mongno said they plan to keep using Eclipse as a price-point option for its drysuits and drytops, while creating a new higher-end Gore-tex Pro category that includes drysuits, bibs, paddling suits (no neck gasket or tunnel) and drytops. The line will include its new women’s and men’s Navigator drysuit (with hood), which retails for $1,395; its Axion drysuit line, which retails at $1,245, and its Nomad paddling suit (no neck gasket or tunnel) at $1,095. Its new Gore-tex Rev drytop will retail for $545 and its Recoil bibs for $725.
For 2022 NRS will only be distributing the new line to select dealers, he said, due to limited availability. “Last year it was hard to get Gore-tex technicians into our facilities to test and monitor because of all the COVID travel restrictions,” he said.
He added that Gore-tex only partners with the “best of the best,” which he was quick to lump competitor Kokatat into as well, and that they vet their partners carefully. The new partnership is indefinite, he added, “as long as we continue to make high-quality product that meets their standards.”
He added that it’s Gore-tex’s decades-long experience making waterproof/breathable fabric, and working hand-in-hand with their partners, which makes them such a great colleague. “They provide so much in the way of knowledge, testing and creating the product, he said. “So it’s not just the material but the whole partnership they bring to the table toward building the best gear possible.”
“It’s not us taking our Eclipse drysuit and just making it in Gore-tex,” he added. “We’ve made huge strides on our design. This is one of the deepest R&D projects we’ve ever done involving our athlete program, from design to colors.” He added that everyone from 14-year-olds to 75-year-old ambassadors have weighed in on different aspects of the new line.
One benefits to retailers, he added, is that because of their economies of scale, they can offer the new line to dealers pre-season at a 50% margin. “They can take a $1,300 item and keystone it, which is pretty rare,” he said. Another advantage is that their minimum order quantity has decreased substantially, meaning more colorway options, especially for women. “In the past there’s been far fewer colors available to women,” he said. “Retailers and consumers would have a whole year of raspberry. But now women can have as many color options as men. He added that generally they’ve been on a two-year product cycle in order to be able to sell through; now they can change that up as well.
As well as offering everything paddlers cherish, from top-level waterproofness and breathability to four-way stretch, the new Gore-tex product has a sustainability story as well, with Gore-tex Pro’s base fabric being 100% recyclable. This joins NRS’s current sustainability efforts such as shipping without plastic bags and investing in a new repair center, he added — all bringing a sustainability component to consumers as well.