The North Face’s “Backyard Project” hoodie is the retailer’s first hyper-local hoodie. Made collaboratively with California artist Rebecca Burgess, whose Fibershed initiative stemmed from a desire to wear clothing produced within 150 miles of her front door, the hoodie is the first bioregional garment from a major apparel label.
While The North Face didn’t quite meet Burgess’s bar, the firm came pretty close. Apart from the cotton, which had to be spun and knitted in the Carolinas due to the dearth of Northern Californian cotton mills, all of the hoodie’s components were grown and sewn within 150 miles of The North Face’s Alameda headquarters.
The hoodie, which blends Foxfibre’s color-grown cotton and the Sustainable Cotton Project’s less-toxic “Cleaner Cotton,” is both a “garment and an opportunity,” according to Burgess.
“When we invest in the Backyard Project hoodie, we are investing in a vision of the future that includes the regionalization of milling, which will in turn provide greater access for small and mid-scale farmers to provide you with homegrown garments,” Burgess says. “Locally farmed fiber rarely, if ever, makes it into the existing global textile supply chains. If we can support our existing small mills and help them to swell with new business through projects such as Backyard, their success will naturally precipitate the need and development for more independent and domestic milling operations.”
The North Face says it also worked to create as little waste as possible. The hoodie incorporates “zero waste” design characteristics such as spiraled cuffs and other pattern efficiencies. Plus, sewers used excess fabric to create pocket and reinforce the internal structure.
“Our design team ended up reversing the design process,” says Adam Mott, director of sustainability at The North Face. “Instead of beginning with the drape or cut, we let nature inform the garment design.”
The garment left its mark on the company in more ways than one. “The Backyard hoodie left our design team with a lasting inspiration that we are incorporating into other products,” Mott adds.