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  • Clara Han

More than an outdoor apparel, the real human meaning of North Face

Updated: Apr 20, 2022

With growing focus on health and wellness, North Face has benefited from renewed interest in the outdoors. Despite this growth, they are trying to diversify the people they attract. For more than half a century, North Face has competed in apparel for climbers and skiers but the outdoor recreation brand is looking to become a serious player in the streetwear market. North Face are also growing their commitment to sustainability in order to attract consumers who are looking to shop more consciously.

While fun outdoor activities such as camping have proliferated, climate change and consumer trends like sustainability have created a range of challenges and opportunities for the brand. Every year, 85% of textiles, including clothing, shoes, and gear, have ended up in landfills. The company also faces stiff competition in the crowded outdoor apparel segment.

One way North Face has been able to differentiate itself from other brands is by partnering with influential fashion and streetwear brands like Gucci and Supreme. The collections of streetwear-inspired jackets, bags, and shoes discovered the possibility of imagination and creativity in outdoor apparel.

North Face also relied on its roster of more than 90 sponsored athletes for brand influence. Vasu Sojitra is one such athlete. At nine months old, he lost his right leg to a blood infection. Today, the extreme skier is capable of backcountry skiing some of America's highest mountains. Vasu's roles at North Face range from testing gears to storytelling on the brand's marketing campaigns and social media. In 2020, Vasu climbed and skied Mount Moran, in Wyoming. The Achievement was captured by North Face. The following year, he teamed up with Pete McAfee to become one of the first adaptive athletes to climb and ski down Alaska's 20,000-foot Denali.

North Face’s rival Patagonia has never really focused on extreme athletes. They focused more on Universalism and always had a solid foundation in environmental sustainability. That's one of the qualities that propelled Patagonia to where it is today. Patagonia has committed to dedicate 1% of its sales to protecting and restoring the environment. All of its cotton products are organically produced and it has used garment restoration procedures. It is also taking steps to improve its supply chain. Patagonia does not have any factories of its own. The company, in partnership with Fair Trade USA, is working to find a permanent solution to ensure all workers receive a fair living wage.

Like its rival Patagonia, North Face has been expanding the sustainability of all its businesses in the past few years. One of the company's largest product lines, the Thermoball jacket, is made with 100% recycled fabric and insulation. North Face's new collections offer refurbished products for consumers looking for affordable gear while minimizing environmental impact. It encourages people to recycle unwanted clothing by offering $10 in store credits. Since its launch, more than 95,000 pounds of clothing and footwear have been recycled.

Fighting climate change wasn’t the only way the outdoor apparel and equipment company acted ethically and got involved in politics. North Face was the first major brand to join Stop Hate for Profit, a temporary boycott of Facebook ads. The campaign called on the social media giant to address surveillance of hate racism and misinformation on its platform.

Patagonia has made a great step to connect with their consumers through Universalism. However, North Face connects with a range of people through Universalism, Self-direction, Power, and Achievement. With more human values conveyed, they may be able to draw more customers in – those who are interested in streetwear and those who want to shop more consciously.

Until next time,

Clara (Intern, OMTM)

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