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The North Face Starting to Scale Circular Fashion

The North Face has launched its first commercial line of products designed for circularity.

A 20-piece collection launched Thursday reimagines styles like its “Osito” fleeces, as well as its Auburn insulated jackets, Polartec fleeces and accessories for adults and kids. Sold through The North Face’s own channels and wholesale partners, the items were designed around the principles of durability, waste reduction, responsible material choice and recyclability.

The line reflects what company designers learned from The North Face Renewed Design Residency program in February 2020. The program trained in-house product developers to make responsible choices during the creative process, like using a single fiber type and easily removable trims. The new Alpine Polartec Fleece, for example, was made with mono-material fabrics and trims instead of incorporating its standard elastic cinch cord.

“When we launched the Renewed Design Residency, our goal was to rethink the way we designed to embed principles of circularity from the start,” said Kellen Hennessy, The North Face circular design manager. The new collection “puts these principles into action, minimizing waste and enabling cycle-ability at the end of the garment lifecycle,” she added. During circular design disassembly testing, it recovered 90 percent of the Osito jacket in about 20 seconds, and 97 percent of the Auburn jacket in nine seconds, Hennessy said.  

The 20 new styles are a permanent addition to The North Face portfolio. The brand plans to roll out more circular design principals with each season, revamping its core assortment and scaling design advancements, Hennessy said. Product labels will educate consumers about circular design and disassembly.

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Designers at The North Face Renewed Design Residency.
Designers at The North Face Renewed Design Residency. The North Face

The North Face also plans to re-launch its take-back program under the Renewed vertical, which houses its line of used gear reclaimed and repaired for reuse and resale. Starting later this month, consumers can turn in their pre-owned The North Face products at in-store Renewed take-back bins. Those items will be cleaned, repaired and re-sold, while goods not fit for resale will be donated. Circularly designed products that customers turn in will be recycled into new raw materials by fiber innovation partner Unifi.

XPLR Pass loyalty members will receive $10 credits redeemable in store or online in exchange for their take-backs.

The North Face last year committed to transition to 100-percent responsibly sourced recycled, regenerative, or renewable materials across its top product lines by 2025. As of this fall, 80 percent of the synthetic fabrics it used for apparel, accessories and equipment like tents and camp chairs are made with recycled content.

The North Face x Online Ceramics

The VF-owned brand advanced its circularity ambitions earlier this year when it launched the Re-Grind platform on Earth Day in collaboration with Online Ceramics. T-shirts and hoodies in the Los Angeles streetwear label’s capsule with The North Face incorporated Re-Grind materials made from repurposed factory cuts. All of the collab’s clothing included at least 75 percent recycled or organic fabrics. Online Ceramics, known for small-batch, hand-dyed production and stockists including Tokyo’s GR8 and Dover Street Market, put its own spin on iconic products including The North Face’s 1986 Mountain Jacket, Traction Mule, Utility Field Vest, and Eco Trail Sleeping Bag.

“We’ve always aimed to create apparel with positive messages that encourage people to shift their way of thinking. Collaborating with an iconic brand like The North Face has allowed us to fuse our unique, thought-provoking designs with the styles The North Face is known for, creating retro-inspired gear that celebrates Earth everyday,” Online Ceramics founders Elijah Funk and Alix Ross said in a statement at the time announcing the $50-$330 collection.

The North Face Re-Grind turns factory scraps into circular fashion

Expect Re-Grind to feature in more of The North Face’s assortment moving forward. Doing more with the materials it already has in hand, even if they’re seemingly undesirable castoffs, should help the company manage costs, better control its input matrix, and reduce textile waste while meeting consumer demand for responsibly produced fashion.