The North Face Sends Employees To Workshop To Learn About Circular Product Design

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Outdoor apparel brand The North Face has just launched a new program for their design team to learn how to repurpose and upcycle old clothing. Called the Renewed Design Residency, the bi-annual program will see 5 of the company designers spend a week with the Renewal Workshop, a company that helps brands collect and reuse old textiles to create new products for resale. The initiative from The North Face comes amid an industry-wide push for sustainability in response to demand from both consumers and their own employees for corporate social and environmental responsibility. 

Earlier this month, one of the world’s most famous outdoor brands, The North Face, revealed that they are putting in place a Renewed Design Residency program. The program, which will be held every 6 months, will see 5 of the US-based company’s designers take part in a week-long intensive residency Renewal Workshop where they will create new pieces out of used clothing and textiles. According to the brand, the goal of the project is to prioritise sustainability when it comes to designing The North Face’s own collections. 

“The fashion industry is known to be one of the world’s largest polluters, and as clothing designers, this is something we grapple with in our day-to-day work. [This] is a challenging opportunity for us to reconsider the way we work and learn techniques for creating products with longevity, repairability and circularity in mind,” said senior designer Kellen Hennessy. 

As a part of the initiative, the designers will create custom, limited-edition pieces by upcycling preloved clothing. 4 of these items from the first programme held back in October 2019 will be available on an online auction this month. 100% of the proceeds from the auctioned upcycled garments will be donated to the brand’s foundation Explore Fund, which helps support environmental nonprofits all over the world. 

While this is the first time it has launched an initiative focusing on repurposing and upcycling old clothing, The North Face has previously ventured into repair and resale. In 2018, the brand launched their Renewed Collection, which showcases refurbished products that have been damaged or returned. Alongside the online action from the latest design residency program, The North Face will also be debuting 70 repaired products under this collection for online purchase. According to the company, this campaign has already diverted over 200,000 pounds of clothing from landfills

These moves come amid a wave of sustainability-oriented campaigns in the fashion industry, primarily in response to increasingly eco-conscious consumers who are demanding environmental action from brands. Since the beginning of this year, we have already seen mainstream brands such as H&M debut products using recycled denim and vegan wine waste leather, upcycled and refurbished gowns take over the Oscars red carpet, and various sustainability pledges from the likes of Nike, Adidas and influential fashion magazine Vogue.  

But the demand hasn’t just come from consumers. Corporations are also facing pressure from employees, who have demonstrated more willingness in recent years to hold company leadership to account for environmental and social responsibility. According to the latest report from marketing consultancy Edelman, 73% of employees want to feel as if they are making a positive impact on the society or the planet. Companies that have failed to match their pledges with real change have been met with protests, such as the recent action from Amazon employees demanding climate responsibility

All images courtesy of The North Face.


  • Sally Ho

    Sally Ho is Green Queen's former resident writer and lead reporter. Passionate about the environment, social issues and health, she is always looking into the latest climate stories in Hong Kong and beyond. A long-time vegan, she also hopes to promote healthy and plant-based lifestyle choices in Asia. Sally has a background in Politics and International Relations from her studies at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

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