As of Wednesday, customers can purchase North Face apparel that’s been worn, torn, washed, and restored to like-new condition through a collaboration with the Renewal Workshop.
The new site, called the North Face Renewed, launched earlier this week with a limited collection of refurbished items, mostly factory rejects and damaged returns. The items, which previously would have been unsellable, range from technical Summit Series outerwear to lifestyle apparel. Price drops range anywhere from 35 to nearly 50 percent. “As we address the impacts of our products over their entire life cycle, re-commerce is an important next step in opening new markets and minimizing our impact on the planet,” said James Rogers, North Face sustainability director, in a press release announcing the project. “We are furthering our sustainability goals without sacrificing durability or technical standards.”
The North Face's partner, Oregon-based Renewal Workshop, cleans and repairs apparel—fixing tears, replacing buttons, and patching worn-out fabric. The company has its own factory where it makes old stuff new again, and what can’t be fixed gets stripped for parts or recycled. Renewal Workshop has been around since 2016, partnering with brands such as Icebreaker, Mountain Khakis, Prana, and Toad&Co, and sells the refurbished items on its own direct-to-consumer site.
Online platforms selling refurbished gear have become something of a trend lately, with Patagonia’s Worn Wear and REI’s Used Gear Beta platforms paving the way for brands to put their own spin on traditional brick-and-mortar consignment. It’s part of an effort to reduce environmental impact—according to an EPA study cited in Newsweek, 84 percent of old or unused clothes in 2012 were thrown away—and eliminate a significant barrier for customers who want high-quality gear but can’t afford it new. Plus, the sites are a welcome alternative to spending hours rummaging through consignment shops hoping to find something in your size.
“One of the many benefits of our collaboration is a product feedback loop,” says a spokesperson from Renewal Workshop partner Prana. “Renewal Workshop works hard to provide Prana with details on every style they repurpose,” like which items are wearing out most and where. “This gives our design and development team priceless insight to course-correct or redevelop.” That insight could also help brands reduce waste.
According to cofounder Nicole Basset, Renewal Workshop reclaimed 42,578 pounds of textile waste in 2017, with a carbon equivalent of 5,118 gallons of gas. With a company as big as the North Face on board, that savings could increase significantly. Eventually, the North Face hopes to scale up its Renewed program to offer a wider selection of apparel. We’d love to see it adopt a store-credit system enabling customers to put trade-in value toward new gear, something Patagonia does with its Worn Wear program. (A North Face spokeswoman said the company is considering it.)
Regardless, it’s good to see companies giving outdoor apparel a second life instead of relegating it to the dump.