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The North Face Auctions Upcycled Fashion to Promote Circular Design

Fans of The North Face will soon have the chance to bid on one-of-a-kind, upcycled garments crafted with the mission of advancing the company’s sustainable output.

On Feb. 5, the company will begin to auction off four unique styles made by its senior designers using circular design techniques. Each piece of outerwear was assembled from materials sourced from the brand’s discarded or unsalable garments.

Two of the pieces will go up for auction on on Wednesday, and the remaining styles will be auctioned next week. All proceeds will benefit The North Face Explore Fund, which funds non-profit environmental organizations.

The auction serves as the kick-off for the company’s Renewed Design Residency training program, which will allow rotating groups of The North Face designers to attend bi-annual workshops on the principles of circular design and creative garment repair.

The North Face celebrated the launch of its Renewed Design Residency program with an auction this week.
The Patch Pocket Nuptse jacket, crafted by designer Danielle Mayer. The North Face

The launch of this educational program represents an expansion of the brand’s commitment to reuse and upcycle its own products. In 2018, The North Face launched its Renewed collection with the Cascade Locks, Ore.-based Renewal Workshop, with the aim of putting returned, damaged or defective clothing back into circulation.

The pieces that will be available for auction were made by The North Face designers Kellen Hennessy, Rebecca Homen, Danielle Mayer and Cheyne Verhagen in October at the inaugural Renewed Design Residency workshop.

The North Face Designers will attend bi-annual workshops at Oregon's Renewal W.orkshop.
The Down Insulated Crew sweatshirt, made by Kellen Hennessy. The North Face

“All of the choices we’re making on the design side around material and trim selection and construction can dictate the life cycle of a product,” Hennessy told Sourcing Journal. “Getting our team educated is important in trying to help effect those decisions in their infancy.”

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Hennessy described the process of allowing designers to “get their hands dirty” at the Renewal Workshop, which aids brands and businesses developing circular manufacturing processes.

“I thought it was important to bring designers in for a residency so we could be fully versed in what happens there, and dig through boxes of product to see damages firsthand.”

The October workshop provided designers with a traditional, classroom-style education around circular design, as well as time to explore innovative solutions, she said.

Designers learned about the most effective use cases for certain materials and components, and what they can do to extend a garment’s life through conscious decision-making. Hennessy cited zippers as a component that tends to fail regularly, necessitating repairs or replacement.

“For certain products, we looked at ways to have a snap-in compatibility or buttons rather than a zip,” she said. Designers can also make better decisions around the types of zippers being used on certain products to ensure maximum effectiveness and longevity.

Designers will learn circular design techniques to optimize for longevity and repair.
The Campshire Down Pullover Fleece, made by designer Rebecca Homan. The North Face

Hennessy also spoke about learning how to position fabric overlays on a garment. Reinforcing the zones that are more likely to face wear and tear, like the cuffs or elbows of a shirt or jacket, can extend a garment’s life.

“We want to build products for durability as well as future repair,” she said. “Part of what the residency does is allow the design team to have a moment exploring the problem and finding creative solutions in a safe, inspiring environment.”

The ultimate goal will be to take those learnings and scale them into more widely achievable repairs across the The North Face’s Renewed collection of products.

Hennessy said she hopes the program will inspire product developers to think not just about reuse and repair, but also about “how big of an impact design can have on the life cycle of a product.”