In its second year, The Backyard Project has scaled up production nearly 15 times, tapped new partners across the U.S. and evolved production to bring eco-preferred fashion to more consumers. The company said it’s about selecting the best available materials and processes that are less impactful on the environment.
The outdoor apparel, equipment and footwear brand, a subsidiary of VF Corp., said it challenged itself in the new incarnation to find ways to expand and scale its pilot project, with a goal of increasing domestic production and the collection’s impact.
In November 2014, The North Face set out to design its first all-cotton hoodie grown, designed, cut and sewn within 150 miles of its headquarters in Alameda, Calif. Taking key lessons from the inaugural capsule collection, which had some sourcing challenges, this year’s Backyard Project has significantly expanded in terms of both quantity and the number of styles while decreasing the hoodie price about 20 percent, with styles for men and women now selling for about $80 to $90 and T-shirts for $40.
From last year’s single-color, unisex hoodie, the project has grown to now include men’s T-shirts, and men’s and women’s full zip and pullover hoodies, and will now be available in at least eight colors — all sourced and manufactured within the U.S.
“The Backyard Project is about connecting with local artisans right here in the USA,” said Sumi Scott, director of sportswear at The North Face. “It’s about knowing which farms grew your cotton, who spun the yarn or how your product was dyed. We learned a lot during Backyard’s 2014 introduction and challenged ourselves to produce a bigger run of locally sourced clothing this season.”
The North Face moved the majority of production from the Bay Area to Los Angeles for this edition in order to expand the project. This allowed the brand to work with small Los Angeles-based businesses, including JC Industries and Care-Tex Industries.
“The Backyard Project emphasizes the importance of Made in the USA,” said Paul Kang, director of Care-Tex, which dyed the project’s garments this year. “The more that large brands can raise awareness of the potential for domestic production, the more likely the consumer will be to seek out domestically produced garments. It’s great to see The North Face supporting this movement.”
All of the cotton used for the project was grown in the U.S. The North Face benefited from the expertise of American farmers such as Jim Olvey of The Natural Hue Co., who has been a cotton breeder for 40 years, as well as Ted Sheely, who uses innovative precision irrigation technologies and aerial imagery and GPS tractor guidance to maximize yields on the Sheely Family Farm in Stratford, Calif. The cotton for this year’s Backyard Project was also ginned in California and Arizona and spun into yarn in South Carolina, before being dyed, cut and sewn in Los Angeles.
In the last few years companies such as yarn makers in North Carolina, fabric firms Cone Mills and Burlington Industries, apparel maker Gildan Activewear and legwear firm Peds USA, as well as major retailers like Wal-Mart Stores Inc. have invested in and committed to boosting Made in America production. The reasons have run from expediency and quality control to marketing and job creation.
The new Backyard Project line will be available in select stores and online starting Tuesday.
The North Face is sold at premium retailers and sporting goods stores globally, as well as its own stores worldwide.