The brothers Luca and Theo Morlacchi took home the Volvo EcoDesign Award at the recent ISPO Winter sports fair with their OutDry concept, which they are positioning as a serious alternative to Gore-Tex or Sympatex and other breathable membranes that have a more established presence in the market. They claim that the membranes that they use to line shoes and gloves keep water away more efficiently, avoiding wrinkles or blisters in the inner shoe, and that they environmentally friendlier – using no PTFE/PTFOA and no fluorocarbons, and requiring no dyestuffs.

First introduced through Mont-Bell of Japan in its trekking and climbing boots in 2005, followed by Italy’s Gronell, the OutDry lamination technology has been adopted by a brand of sailing shoes, Slam, and many other brands in the sports sector such as Bridgestone, Fila, Umbro, Hugo Boss, Kamik, Lafuma, Mezela or Reusch. While Sympatex doesn’t want to give any figures, Nextec, the Morlacchi brothers’ company, estimates that more than 500,000 pairs of waterproof shoes will be produced with OutDry this year.

The Italian brothers’ technique consists in laminating membranes directly to footwear uppers. Instead of sewing in an extra sock inside the shoe, this system welds a protective membrane to the outer shell, thereby keeping the foot dryer and preventing the shell from soaking up any water. They have patented the 7 stages of the lamination process, which uses a special three-dimensional pressing machine inspired to the diaphragm-moulding machines used in the aerospace industry.

It has a partnership deal with a Japanese industrialist, Komazzo, to produce these membranes, which OutDry then sells as a set, along with the laminates, to use in their manufacturing processes. OutDry itself has a small factory in China where it can deal directly with manufacturers and take on a part of the lamination work itself.

With a proven track record, Nextec is beginning to promote OutDry in a more significant way through its partners and through retailers. It began with Gonell at Sportitaly in Bolzano one year ago. In cooperation with Kamik, it had its first booth at ISPO earlier this month and it plans a presence at the outdoor shows in Friedrichshafen and Salt Lake City.

To reach out to consumers, OutDry and Gronell will run a joint promotion in Italy through the stores of Sport Specialist next May. At the same time OutDry and Lafuma will run a similar joint initiative in France through the stores of Au Vieux Campeur, the country’s largest outdoor retailer.

The Morlacchi brothers originally set up their company in 1998 to laminate textiles for the fashion industry. Luca has worked for brand names such as Ralph Lauren and Prada and has held a position as international sales and marketing manager at Vibram. Theo came up with a process for the lamination of cashmere while working at Loro Piana.