Outdoors gear gets worn. That’s what’s meant to happen. Whether it’s a scrap with a bush, a collision with a tree, or a battle with a cliff face, your jackets, pants, and bags always come off worse. Even if they’re built with durable and hard-wearing materials.
So, it makes perfect sense that outdoor brands each have their own take-back and renewal programs. Patagonia has its ReCrafted collection, Arc’teryx has ReBird and Merrel offers ReTread. (You can see a subtle pattern emerging in their naming conventions.)
But we’re not talking about any of those today. We’re talking about The North Face, which is back with its (renewed) Renewed program. First launched in 2018, it works much the same as many other re-commerce and take-back services: customers send in worn items, The North Face then repair ones that can be saved, and resell them online. Some are sold like-new and others are reconditioned with visible mends, and sold at a discount.
The REMADE collection lives under the Renewed umbrella. Whereas regular Renewed items look the same (albeit a little worn) as the new products off the shelf, the REMADE pieces are a bit more unique and creative in their design. Each is hand-repaired, taking parts of old The North Face pieces and collaging them together to create one-of-a-kind items.
Inside the collection, you’ll find the iconic 1996 Retro Nuptse Jacket. This jacket seems built for renewals thanks to its quilted sections that have been patched with contrasting colors and camouflage patterns. There are also Thermoball hoodies and parkas, and a selection of accessories including totes, hip packs and canister bags.
The items manage to avoid a hand-repaired DIY aesthetic, with each piece being carefully balanced. There are nice touches like a shiny puffer patch on a pile fleece, and the climbing ropes used as shoulder straps on the tote bags.
As part of this renewal, The North Face is also bringing back its Renewed Design Residency. Based in Oregon, designers will learn more about the principles of circularity and create one-of-a-kind pieces from The North Face garments. There are also repair workshops being held, although details are thin on the ground at the moment.
While we’re appreciative of these programs, what we’d like to see is more innovative uses of materials. There’s no escaping the fact that The North Face still loves using down and feathers in its insulated goods. It’s a problem across the whole category. Flag bearers of sustainable outdoors gear, Patagonia, also uses virgin down in its insulated jackets, although touts that it’s all responsibly sourced.
To take a cynical view, the aesthetic of renewed and refurbed clothing has become a bit of a fashion trend. Patched-up outerwear, Frankenstein-style accessories and visible mends are all proving quite popular, and not just in the outdoors category. As much as it might be a way of creating some form of circularity in your brand, the initiatives also rely on the fact that items that look like this are also highly coveted. And the one-of-a-kind element makes them all the more desirable.
We believe that all clothing should have a chance to extend its life after it’s been worn, and welcome these take-back and renewal services. But let’s hope that brands aren’t taking their eye off the ball when it comes to Earth-friendly materials and processes.
Take a look at the collection on The North Face website.