Northface Introduces A “Locally-Grown” Cotton Hoodie
When The North Face introduced The Backyard Project— a collaboration with Fibershed in which The North Face set out to craft an apparel collection within close proximity of their Bay Area headquarters– they knew that the project would be a challenge, but they didn’t realize how popular the idea would be among their consumers.
The North Face has a reputation for innovation and environmental protection– especially around their headquarters in Alameda, California, where East Bay activism dovetails with crunchy Bohemia. In December of 2014, the company introduced 2,000 limited-edition oatmeal-colored cotton hoodies to their online and brick-and-mortar stores. Each hoodie retailed for $125, and by January, all of them were sold out.
The Back Yard Project men’s and women’s hoodies were made from cotton sourced within 150 miles of North Face HQ, including fibers from Organic heirloom cotton farmer Sally Fox, whose brown, shorter-fiber material was a primary ingredient in the limited-edition hoodie. Fox’s cotton was a shorter fiber than the conventional white cotton the company traditionally used, but director of North Face sustainability Adam Mott looked past the difference and saw only opportunity. “The project is very much about connections with people,” Mott told the Guardian. “Her cotton was so beautiful. We were all a bit mesmerized when she brought a sample. We thought, ‘we will have to make something from it.’”
The North Face decided to make a hoodie with a heather look, which required mixing the brown cotton with standard white cotton sourced from the farm of Gary and Mari Martin of the Sustainable Cotton Project (a nonprofit that promotes environmentally-friendly cotton farming while connecting growers to retailers).
Ultimately, the North Face broke its 150 mile radius goal because the only companies capable of spinning the yarn were based in North and South Carolina, where most of the US textile industry is still based, downsizes as it may be now that so many of the nation’s textile jobs have been outsourced overseas.
The fabric was sent back to the Bay Area for dying, cutting, and sewing– so while the company didn’t technically meet its 150 mile radius for farm-to-retail manufacturing, the raw materials did. The result was something worth celebrating: an exclusive, locally-sourced clothing collection with a true connection to the company’s “backyard”.
Watch the video to get a glimpse behind the scenes in the making of the North Face’s “locally grown” hoodies: