The North Face is taking an internal approach to design sustainability with a new program called the Renewed Design Residency. Every six months, a team of employees will participate for the purpose of learning ways to reuse garments—particularly by maximizing clothing lifespans and improving sustainability efforts within the retail industry. Not only is The North Face hoping to find ways to reuse articles of clothing, but to start designing items with durable longevity, including by reminding consumers to wear items longer. A recent study found that 85% of produced textiles end up in the ocean or landfills—a huge problem for the environment as well as the fashion industry—the latter incurring a large economic value loss as a result.
The North Face’s residency program is in partnership with Renewal Workshop, a company that helps collect, repair, and resell discarded garments. The two companies originally began working together in 2018 to create an upcycling program. Some of the limited-edition collections created in the residency program will be for sale on The North Face’s website, where the company has integrated its corporate social responsibility with commerce—a common strategy for communicating sustainability efforts, according to a Gartner report on the topic. Companies big and small have been developing environmentally friendly programs as sustainability becomes less of a trend and more of a standard—for example, Nordstrom has recently embarked on an effort of its own by opening up a resale shop at its New York City flagship.
As sustainability slowly becomes the norm, The North Face is hoping to make clear to its customers, employees, and competitors that clothing should be a long-term purchase. Though it may not to be possible to make up for decades of environmental damage from the fast-fashion age, one thing is for sure: the task will require reinvention from many retail and fashion labels.