The North Face on where function and fashion collide

Outdoor brands have boomed amid the movement to reconnect with nature – and the North Face has been at its forefront. Design director Darren Shooter discusses the brand’s rich visual history, its new focus on circularity, and the Gucci collab that broke the internet

Named after the coldest, most unforgiving side of a mountain, the North Face was founded in 1966 with the intention of making the outdoors accessible to people of all backgrounds and capabilities. The San Francisco-born brand quickly gained a cult following among avid outdoor athletes and began sponsoring expeditions to some of the most far-flung corners of the globe – a tradition which still continues today. Five decades on, and now owned by VF Corporation (the parent company for Supreme and Vans, among others), the brand creates an extensive line of performance apparel, equipment and footwear.

Aimed at everyone from extreme skiers to endurance runners to city dwellers, the North Face’s wide-ranging customer base is united by what the brand describes as its “explorer” mentality. “Exploration can mean different things to different people, so I think that’s how we’ve been able to communicate to everybody. If you look at a family, the kids are essentially trying to steal their granddad’s jacket from the 80s, which I just love,” says EMEA design director, Darren Shooter.

Top: Gucci x The North Face’s 2020 collaboration. Above: A still from the North Face’s It’s More than a Jacket campaign

It was the brand’s unique ability to speak to different consumer types, along with its focus on pioneering technical clothing design, that first attracted Shooter to join its European headquarters in Switzerland four years ago. “Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always been really into clothes and weirdly really into outerwear,” he says. “I’m from the north of England, actually from the Yorkshire Pennines. I grew up around all these old 19th century woollen mills, and everybody in the area worked in the fabric industry, so I guess that probably influenced me moving into fashion.”

JUNIOR GRAPHIC DESIGNER

Milton Keynes