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Onwards and upwards, the lofty peaks of The North Face

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Last summer, The North Face launched its most iconic pop-up to date, a tiny store impossibly placed 2,100m high in the Dolomites, only reachable by trekking on foot. As part of its Pinnacle Project series, the leading American purveyor of outdoor goods has crossed many boundaries, mountainous or otherwise.

TNF, as the company is affectionately known by fans, has an incredible history since the opening of its first store on San Francisco’s North Beach in 1966. FashionUnited spoke with the company's Brand Comms Director, Amanda Calder-McLaren, to talk expeditions, disruption and sustainability.

Much terrain has been navigated by your customers and athletes over the years. What was their response to the recent Pinnacle Project in the Dolomites?

The objective of our pop-up was to shine a light on some of our phenomenal athletes and their achievements. It was reachable only on foot and was transformed into a never seen before archive of iconic items that our athletes donated from their epic expeditions. It was only open for one week, after which the bivvy was restored to its intended use and the items were auctioned off, with all proceeds going back to the mountains. Disruption is a good thing if the intention is to move the world forward."

The proceeds of the event were ‘given back to the mountains’. Could you explain this? How important is environmental preservation and philanthropy to the brand?

One of our core values is to Love Wild Places and we make a commitment to that value every time we create a campaign – be it an activation or in a city or in the mountains. For the Pinnacle Project we donated funds to places that directly impact the mountain environment, such as training guides or helping with clear and clean-up operations.

Disruption is a good thing if the intention is to move the world forward

Amanda Calder-McLaren, Brand Comms Director EMEA, The North Face

The North Face pioneered the idea of rebellious spirits uniting in exploration through the outdoors, fashion, design and music. How do you use social media to reach a new generation of rebels?

Social media is no longer a ‘could do’ but a should do. Relevance is being where the consumers are and responding to how they want to receive brand information. It’s about delivering a message that resonates with this generation, a message that is authentic and that is honest.

Your campaign “Walls are meant for climbing” resonates on so many levels, removing barriers, promoting inclusivity and union. The next climbing event is in Milan from 13-14 September. How important is it to be present in local communities and to spread that message?

We believe we shouldn’t just be present, but be active in local communities. As a brand we have a voice that can help bring people together where people can feel free to express themselves and develop their passions. Climbing is a sport that we feel we can help people to experience, either at one of our WAMFC activations or with our Never Stop Communities and as it enters the Olympics next year there has never been a better time for people to get involved.

The North Face is about to release a sustainable alternative to the down jacket, using Thermoball, an insulation technology made from recycled polyester and plastic. Can you tell us a little more about sustainable performance apparel and whether 100 percent sustainable apparel is possible for a performancewear and outdoor retailer?

The ThermoBall Eco is a brilliant example of how sustainable design and manufacturing can create a product that not only has a limited footprint on the planet but delivers from a highly technical perspective and as a brand we’re continually looking at ways we can operate in a sustainable way – all the way from the factory to the shop floor.

One of our core values is to Love Wild Places

Amanda Calder-McLaren, Brand Comms Director EMEA, The North Face

Julian Lings, The North Face Sustainability Manager, EMEA, explains: "Our sustainability mission is to protect our outdoor playgrounds and communities through the design and development of environmentally and socially responsible products and business practices. We have conducted life cycle assessments of products in our apparel, footwear and equipment categories, and have determined that 60 – 85 percent of our total environmental impact comes from fabric processing and product manufacturing. This motivated us to change the materials used in our largest collections to recycled materials. In the case of Thermoball Eco, we’re taking plastic bottles and recycling them into fibers and fabrics. Converting ThermoBall to recycled materials is an important step toward creating sustainable change at scale.

The North Face sustainable down jacket using Thermoball technology is available in store and online now.

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