Nature needs heroes, and Timberland wants to predicate this message to the industry, hosting a New York City tour which included a dinner Thursday night and workshops at its flagship.
During the dinner and conversation aptly titled Freight-to-Table, Timberland executives and Sam Kass, former Obama administration White House chef and food sustainability activist, spoke in between courses about the brand’s three pillars: greener world, better products, stronger communities.
Attendees included Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne, cofounders of Public School; Brad McNamara and Jon Friedman, cofounders of ag-tech company Freight Farms which hosted workshops at the Timberland flagship alongside a partnership with the brand to activate local year-round farming; Stephanie Benedetto, founder of Queen of Raw; a sustainable and deadstock textiles marketplace; and Kass, who prepared the menu, among other thought leaders across food and fashion.
Kass spoke of the synergies between food and fashion, as identity and a proponent of a throwaway mentality. “Food is who we are and fashion is who we are,” said Kass.
Chris McGrath, vice president of global footwear design at Timberland, shared more of the brand’s design goals.
Timberland aims to “change the fabric of this landscape,” as McGrath said, doing so through increasing efficient pattern cutting, using regenerative leather while aiming to incorporate one major recycled or recyclable material in each of its product lines. With that, the brand is also hopeful to “inspire the future of design and designers of today” such as Public School.
Public School cofounders and designers Chow and Osborne were in attendance, perhaps for a brewing collaboration. As recent winners of the CFDA initiative with Lexus, the two are increasingly focused on sustainability, be it through community initiatives and collaborations. Last year, Public School launched a collaboration with Eileen Fisher that was created with all upcycled designs.
As previously reported in WWD, the designers have partnered with such firms as Nike Inc., Moët Chandon, J. Crew and Fitbit, having served as co-creative directors for DKNY.
A team member from Timberland confirmed that Public School and Timberland were indeed collaborating on a collection, and one style is slated to launch this November. Chow was allegedly sporting boots from the collaboration.
Timberland is quietly brewing creative synergies between those in fashion and across industries, and it has been doing so for a while — just not as vocally.
Last year, Timberland tapped Christopher Raeburn as global creative director who, as Jim Pisani, Timberland’s global brand president, said to WWD, “will be central in helping to bring Timberland’s brand creative vision and purpose to life, not just in our product collections, but in our store environments and marketing.”
Colleen Vien, the sustainability director at Timberland, told WWD about the expansive efforts that she has led in her 14 years with the brand. And when VF Corp. acquired the brand in 2011, Vien’s ideas were implemented later across the company’s portfolio, which includes brands such as The North Face, Dickies and Vans, among others.
Timberland’s ethos is best said by Vien; “It’s so much more than Mother Nature, it’s human nature.” The brand aims to plant 50 million trees around the world by 2025 as part of its large-scale approach to reforestation.
“Tree planting is about hope and prosperity. It’s no longer about doom and gloom,” reiterated Vien. But the brand also reduces its impact in other ways, diverting 75 percent of its waste from landfills, while using 100-percent post-consumer recycled materials and soy and sesame-based inks.
Its community development work has extended into the lives of its factory workers (outside the factory walls), closing the traditional distance between off-shore workers and apparel brands that often exists in the industry.
At a separate event, held in collaboration with Create & Cultivate, Timberland convened sustainability leaders in the space. Panelists included Lauren Singer, chief executive officer of Package Free Shop, which recently raised $4.5 million; along with Erin Boyle, author of the book “Simple Matters”; among others.
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