It’s been a busy two years for Tim Hamilton since he joined The North Face as global creative director in October 2017.
He’s quietly been assembling a team, poring through the brand’s archives for inspiration and applying what he’s learned to put a fresh stamp on all aspects of the product line.
On Thursday night in New York, Hamilton introduced the key players in The North Face’s creative office and gave a preview of the pinnacle product that will hit the market for spring, the first season when the fruits of their designs will be revealed.
“I’ve always had a fondness for this brand,” Hamilton said. “It’s so recognizable, has a global reach and hits all generations. But there were a lot of diamonds to unearth.”
His mission is to elevate the design ethos of The North Face while ensuring that the product still delivers on its performance mission.
So his first order of business was to research the brand’s heritage since it was founded in 1966, and the innovations it has created for the past 50-plus years. The color palette, the high-tech fabrics and the details that have defined the brand are being used as “the guardrails for what we do,” he said.
Although the brand is keeping images of the line under wraps, what will be evident in the spring is a fashion-skewed take on some of The North Face’s most recognizable products, such as jackets, climbing suits and avalanche vests made from the same materials and sporting the same details as the performance product, but with “shapes that are contemporary and forward,” he said, and targeted to the fashion crowd.
Hamilton said the goal is to “bring the two worlds together — performance and lifestyle. We have permission to own the mountain and play in the city.”
Although Under Armour’s high-end fashion collection designed by Tim Coppens was short-lived, Hamilton is confident that The North Face’s collections won’t meet the same fate.
“I’ve worked for corporate companies,” he said, “and have a managerial approach.” He added that oftentimes, designers will work in a bubble and don’t consider the larger picture of the corporation as a whole.
“Here, egos are checked at the door,” he said. “This is not about me, this is about The North Face and how we can elevate the brand. It doesn’t need to have my signature or handwriting on it.”
He said even with the fashion-skewed collections, a customer should be able to recognize an item as The North Face even if the brand name was covered. “It’s very progressive, but rooted in our heritage,” he explained.
That same sentiment was echoed by Pelagia Kolotouros, design director for city and street, and Mona Al-Shaalan, design manager of city, who said the lifestyle collections will also offer more product designed specifically for women starting next year.
The pricing of the pinnacle lifestyle product will be on par with the brand’s most elevated technical product, such as its Summit Series. The collection will be sold at top-tier The North Face stores as well as a handful of influential specialty retailers starting in February.
Hamilton, a Council of Fashion Designers of America award-winning designer who has worked for Ralph Lauren, Gap and J. Crew and had his own label, was a pioneer of the now-ubiquitous collaboration. He said although The North Face has had a series of successful partnerships with brands such as Sacai, there are no new ones that can be revealed now. But he hinted that others are in the works for the future.