MILAN — “No better time than on your anniversary to start the project and give back [to the ocean],” said Willem Wijnen, North Sails’ chief customer officer, ahead of the event held at the brand’s flagship in central Via Durini here on Tuesday night.
To coincide with the 60th anniversary of the brand this year, North Sails unveiled a partnership with the Ocean Family Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in the U.K. the aim of which is to raise awareness and to concretely help prevent ocean pollution. One percent of sales of North Sails products will be donated to the foundation, starting with the spring 2018 collection.
Proceeds will support specific projects such as “A Plastic Planet,” which attempts to reduce the amount of plastic in supermarkets and to create plastic-free aisles, as well as raising awareness of the issue. “If people know, they start to care, if they care they will start to act and a change can only be made if more people act responsibly,” Wijnen highlighted.
To mark the partnership, the brand unveiled a capsule collection of T-shirts made of upcycled cotton and materials derived from recycled PET bottles. Each piece will carry both the brand’s and the foundation’s logos. The T-shirts will arrive in stores as well as on the brand’s online shop starting from April. Wijnen described this as a first step to become “more of a blue company,” revealing that they aim to increase the use of recycled materials, starting with the fall 2018 collection, which will be showcased at Pitti Uomo next January.
North Sails also unveiled on Tuesday its partnership with Ocean Ramsey, a marine biologist, conservationist, ethologist and scuba diver whose Instagram pictures of her swims with whale sharks helped her gain around 345,000 followers. Along with photographer Juan Oliphant, Ramsey has been tapped as ambassador for the sail-making brand and fronts the fall 2017 ad campaign. The couple founded the One Ocean Research & Diving association.
“We were looking for people who really have an honest story to tell,” explained Wijnen, who described the marine biologist’s work as a metaphor for the importance of raising awareness. He pointed out that working with sharks “who have such a bad image, shows you the power of communication because actually sharks are not at all a danger, they don’t do anything against humans and they’re very important to keep the food chain and the ecosystem healthy. And people don’t know that.”
Ramsey revealed her enthusiasm for the collaboration with North Sails, a brand that “sets an example” by helping consumers make an environmentally friendly choice as they are not always conscious of the ocean pollution problem, “when you’re out on the boat and you see dolphins jumping, whales jumping, whale sharks spinning at the surface, this is beautiful. But now you see more and more plastics; over 90 percent of sea birds are dying because of plastic ingestion,” she recalled.
Explaining that 70 million to 100 million sharks are killed every year for their fins, which account for five percent of their body masses, and asked about the fashion industry’s sense of responsibility, Ramsey also noticed that she “can’t think of something less classy than killing something only for its five percent.”
Besides fronting North Sails’ ad campaign, Ramsey and Oliphant are also working on another project with the brand. A specific lineup, fabricated with recycled materials and bearing Oliphant’s images of marine animals, will likely bow in 2019, even if a launch date hasn’t been set yet. Wijnen didn’t disclose further details but said Ramsey “is a great spokesperson and has design talent and she can get the message out. She and Juan [Oliphant], together, have a huge reach on social media, so a collaboration would be fantastic.”
The couple is also working on a book and a documentary showcasing the idea that “all the oceans are one” and how life is connected to the ocean, as well as underscoring the impact human behavior has on it.
For 2018, North Sails is also endorsing marine biologist Maria Sole Bianco as its Italian brand ambassador.
Most recently, North Sails christened its foray in the U.S. market with a partnership with Saks Fifth Avenue. Last March the brand unveiled a pop-up store at the retailer’s Brickell City Centre store in Miami, which has then traveled to San Francisco’s Union Square in May, followed by Manhattan’s Brookfield Place in July.