Celebrating The Spirit of ExplorationGear
The North Face x Gucci Collaboration
Written by Jenny Tough
What does exploration mean in modern times? The term ‘explorers’ initially turns the imagination towards black-and-white images of sturdy young men seeking new lands for the empire, planting flag poles in the snow and drawing new maps and naming new species. But today, the term has suitably broadened.
Explorers scratch beyond the surface to discover not only new places and cultures, but also concepts – indeed, exploration is almost an ethos, a doctrine, not a literal wooden ship sailing towards the edge of the map. Modern explorers are those who seek new routes, concepts, and technologies. They are those who seek the limits – who sail for the edge of the proverbial map.
Even before the disruption of a global pandemic, brands were having a hard time. The changing landscape of retail along with growing demands from consumers and the supply chain to manufacture sustainably – while keeping costs (and margins) low – have mounted pressure on brands of all sizes to create new ways to stay relevant and alive. This has led to a lot of good things for consumers: innovative technologies, stronger reassurances on sustainability and morality, and exciting collaborations between companies that can blend their respective expertise to create new products.
In the name of innovative collaborations, this year outerwear powerhouse The North Face teamed up with leading fashion house Gucci. The two brands came together to create a collection that fuses ready-to-wear outdoor pieces with a retro aesthetic. What at first glance appears, in all honesty, an unlikely marriage, the two brands cite a natural collaboration based on the shared values of adventure, freedom, respect for nature, and, above all, the spirit of exploration – whether literal exploration of places and cultures or adventure in a more metaphorical sense.
The collection is an equal blend of each company, including typical outerwear items such as down coats and vests, and also more ‘fashion’ items like silk shirts and skirts. The pieces are bright and floral, and make use of archival fabrics from The North Face’s material library, harking back to styles from the ‘70s. There are also backpacks and belt bags, and a gender-neutral hiking boot – a concept that Alessandro Michele from Gucci has championed since becoming their creative director in 2015. His design ethos embraces inclusivity, and gender-fluid items are increasingly welcomed in the outdoor sphere.
Sustainability was at the heart of the collaboration, making use of sustainable materials and purposeful design to reduce environmental impact at every stage of the manufacturing process. Both brands have declared substantial commitments to eco-sustainable activities, and the fusion of both approaches is apparent in the collection, from the use of ECONYL® – a nylon fabric sourced from regenerated materials – down to the packaging that the products come in, both by a reduction in materials and use of sustainably managed forest sources for paper and cardboard.
‘The collection has been conceived for people who are not in competition with nature, but who just want to listen to nature.’
On the Gucci side, their programme called Gucci Equilibrium is a commitment to ‘generate positive change for people and the planet’, a mission that underlines all of the brand’s actions. In addition to a focus on ecological impact, Gucci Equilibrium also champions inclusivity and respect for all people to express their authentic, diverse selves. This ethos is apparent in both the design of the products, and also the campaigns created to market the new collection.
To launch The North Face x Gucci collaboration, representatives of each brand (and personal friends) Jimmy Chin and Jared Leto got together for a climbing photoshoot in Joshua Tree National Park. Chin, who rose to international fame following the success of Free Solo, has worked with The North Face for 20 years, and Leto is a close friend of Alessandro Michele of Gucci. The pair of Oscar winners put the collection to the test in their own natural environment, effortlessly blending sport and creativity. In an interview with Sidetracked, Leto revealed his long-standing enthusiasm for Gucci and Michele – a relationship between artist and brand founded on ‘creativity and respect’. Chin, close friend of The North Face founder Doug Tompkins, told Sidetracked that this shoot was one of the highlights of the year, ‘the perfect intersection of really fun climbing and hang time’. The resulting photographs of Jared Leto in the new collection are a unique blend of two very different worlds.
This unlikely collaboration is certain to turn heads in the outdoor world and evoke strong opinions towards both brands. That is, perhaps, part of the aim – to inspire us to continue to create, think differently, and never stop exploring.