The North Face made a big step into a circular future with the inception of their Renewed program in August of 2017. By redefining what they considered waste and investing in extending the life of products already made through Renewal, they’ve redirected 112,310 pounds of “waste” back into circulation. Last year, a senior designer at The North Face, Kellen Hennessy, visited the Renewal Workshop and realized there was an opportunity for the design team to learn more about the entire life cycle of a garment. Knowing that design plays a major role in circular business, Hennessy proposed the idea and The North Face Design Residency was born.
The Design Residency is an ongoing project that educates designers about circular design principles to make products more repairable, reusable or recyclable. The goal is to create purposeful solutions inside a framework that considers the complete lifecycle of the garment and apply circular principles through hands on repair and redesign. During the Residency designers apply these learnings and launch new lines of products made entirely of existing materials.
Last October, designers spent a week at The Renewal Workshop factory in Cascade Locks. They worked side by side with experienced circular technicians to get hands on practice with product. They took the knowledge they acquired and focused on what it means to disassemble, to recover resources, to repair and to remake product. During the week, the designers created a small series of Handcrafted circular products, a special Residency Project collection, that could be produced in partnership with the Renewal technicians.
“As designers, we’re thinking about how to design products that will perform when the customer uses it,” says Hennessy. “But through this program, we’re thinking about what happens at the end of the garment’s life. We can focus on extending the product’s lifespan and finding new purposes for it when it’s finally beyond use.”
By incorporating circular into its design philosophy, The North Face is building processes to operate within the constraints of a finite planet.The North Face Design Residency is an example of a company moving deeper into the circular system.