At this moment, Stefan Marschar has the complete attention of every visitor, children and adults alike. The show will begin as soon as he closes the doors to the rain room and the rain is “turned on”. Basic test, storm test, motorcycle test – the rather nondescript-looking rain room in Feldkirchen-Westerham near Munich where Gore tests the waterproofness of its apparel offers all that and more. “The experience reminds some visitors of an experience they had with a GORE-TEX jacket when the weather was particularly bad”, he notes. Of course, the visitors are all so different – customers, retailers, Gore employees, students, families, journalists, medical professionals…. “I really love bloggers; they are always so well informed”, he grins. Aside from this whole spectacle, it’s also important to Stefan Marschar that visitors learn something, that they take away information. “After working for Gore for 18 years, it’s always a challenge to me to ensure people are enthusiastic about the rain room. Doesn’t matter if it’s a family that’s here on a big family outing or a group of journalists. My motto is: Interactivity. That always works.”
From concept to finished product
What many don’t realize is that Stefan doesn’t hang out all day as the ringmaster of the rain room. Oh no, there is a pile of other challenges waiting for him in his office. Together with Gore brand partners, the 53-year-old apparel engineer originally from Baden develops prototypes for new jackets and pants. Going from a concept to a design to a completed product with GORE-TEX fabrics that has all the desired water- and windproof ability plus breathability isn’t always an easy path. Sometimes it takes months to figure out the right construction methods for the desired look.
A lot of intuition and finesse is demanded here. “To shepherd this process of taking an idea from a simple drawing to a finished product is really a true challenge every time. However, for me, it is one of the most exciting, super jobs”, he says. Doesn’t it get boring at some point after many years? “No, never! There are always new fabrics and new technology, and specifications and designs change…. Everyday, I learn something new”, Stefan Marschar says. He talks about his job with so much enthusiasm, with beaming eyes, gesticulating so joyfully, that I have the feeling he has really met his perfect match in the job. It really works. He would call it a “perfect fit”.
The test that makes the difference
When the final prototype is complete, the so-called “style approval” is next. First, all key specs such as jacket weight are input into a databank. Then comes a visual assessment where Stefan precisely analyses every detail of the piece up close. If he doesn’t find fault with anything, the prototype is spared additional tests. If it’s a new type of construction or a totally new end-use, off it goes to the rain room. When Stefan turns on the rain, it’s not just about a show. The focus is on using the tried-and-tested process to evaluate the functional performance of the construction and the workmanship of the model. The test is successful only if the jacket is 100-per cent waterproof. The promise is indeed, “GUARANTEED TO KEEP YOU DRY”, so nothing else is acceptable. If even just one tiny water drop manages to get into the prototype, the test is considered a failure and the jacket does not pass. And then begins the search for the cause.
Hats, helmets, models
By the way, if you think Stefan “only” tests jackets and pants, then you are all wrong. In his nearly two decades at the job, he’s experienced a wide range of tests. During our chat he tells a few lesser-known tales: “A few years ago, an associate here wanted to test the performance of a bivvy sack. For a week, he lay in the rain room a few hours at a time every day in the sack. In the rain, mind you. Footwear, helmets, hats, even the water-repellent treatment of a helmet visor have all been tested.” He remembers well a visit by an industry news magazine that wanted very special photos. It brought along a female model, wearing a skimpy bikini with rubber boots and a GORE-TEX jacket for the rain room shoot. For some reason, an inordinate number of employees that day found something they needed to do in the area.
Even though the image of Stefan as the Master of the Rain Room will likely last a very long time, we now know there is a whole lot more to what he does. Because it is certainly the close relationship with customers as well as such elaborate testing that makes GORE-TEX products so unique.
“GUARANTEED TO KEEP YOU DRY”, thanks too to the work of Stefan Marschar.
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