2024-04-13
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The North Face: When a brand succeeds in breaking down a stereotype

Comfort, durability, and sustainability… how The North Face has managed to redefine waterproof thanks to an innovative fabric membrane.

Credit: The North Face web site
Credit: The North Face web site

What is The North Face?

It is usually the hardest face of any mountain to climb, but at the same time, it is also the brand that helps you reach certain goals.

In 1966 Doug Tompkins, a young climber, opened a small store in San Francisco that would quickly become a landmark by providing appropriate items for anyone interested in mountain sports. The real turning point for the brand came in 1969 with the Ruthsack. One of the first backpacks with an internal frame created to help climbers with their bulky gear. This type of backpack was able to revolutionize the world of hiking by making it accessible to more and more people, affirming The North Face’s professionalism and attention to its products and customers.

north face | shoestechnologies
Doug Tompkins, Co-Founder of The North Face
Credit: The North Face web site

Over the years the brand has also sponsored expeditions of all kinds and to the most remote corners of our planet. One of the first expedition occurred in 1972 when a group of explorers, led by Ned Gillette, crossed two imposing rivers in Alaska covering around 480km in 30 days. The goal of certain event is to demonstrate both the quality and durability of the brand’s products and its willingness to stand up for the support and protection of nature, in this case preventing the construction of the Alaska Pipeline, a pipeline the crosses the entire country.

By making things a lot lighter and more functional, we were freeing people up to go much farther

Jack Gilbert, VP of Sales and Marketing, 1966-1988

Over the years The North Face has launched many lines of clothing and cutting-edge technologies, for example in the 1980s it added extreme skiing apparel to its catalog or in the following decade it debuted a collection that could help anyone who loves to explore outdoors; from mountaineers through trail runners to simple outdoor enthusiasts.

In the new millennium The North Face launches its line of hiking and trail-running shoes, managing to expand its catalog again and reach an even larger audience of outdoor enthusiasts.

The North Face: Revolution is designed… not just imagined

The North Face seems to never cease to amaze and to keep working on creating garments that combine technology, comfort and multifunctionality.

In 2019, Futurelight™ was born, a technology that especially revolutionizes the world of waterproof clothing. Its greatest special feature is the use of a nanospinning process that manages to offer greater ventilation and breathability, while maintaining the product’s durability and waterproofness. The North Face, with the creation of the Futurelight membrane, has set out to dispel the myth that a waterproof garment is exclusively uncomfortable and heavy, succeeding in making a fabric that is lightweight, flexible, comfortable, durable and sustainably designed.

Innovation is born by setting high standards 

The North Face has realized that to make an innovative and functional fabric, there is a need to be testing and a solid and revolutionary underlying desing.

For this reason, the brand entered into a collaboration with Underwrite Labs, an independent expert organization in the field of science and safety, to evaluate the strength and efficiency of Futurelight technology by giving it, after various tests such as exposing the fabric to the pressure of 750 liters of water per hour, the certification of total waterproofness.

In addition to this type of verification, the brand also took advantage of the help of professional athletes who have already collaborated with The North Face, to also understand in concrete terms if the clothing lived up to expectations and how this membrane reacted in the medium and long term.

Futurelight comes to shoes as well

As we have already mentioned, since the new millennium The North Face has launched its own line of shoes and it hasn’t missed the opportunity to combine this new membrane with the world of footwear, creating products that can offer comfort, waterproofing, breathability and high durability for everyone’s needs.

So far, shoes with Futurelight membrane are divided mainly according to 4 activities that can be done: trekking, lifestyle, mountaineering and trail running. Although they are all groups that The North Face pays a lot of attention to, the trekking category is the one with the most diverse catalog that alternates between hiking shoes and boots, such as the “Vectiv Futurelight Infinite” characterized by the right balance between responsiveness and waterproofness, or such as the “Chilkat V lace waterproof hiking boots”, typical winter hiking boots made with a Surface Control sole to help your stride while walking.

north face | shoestechnologies
Chilkat V lace waterproof hiking boots
Credit: The North Face web site
north face | shoestechnologies
Vectiv Futurelight Infinite trail running shoes
Credit: The North Face web site

It would not be a surprise if over time all the categories will expand more and more because it is good to remember, as Alex Honnold climber, mountaineer and sportsman who belongs to the The North Face athlete team says:

It’s not about the distance, but what there is to discover right in front of me. 

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