translating the north face’s layering system for the streets

As the outerwear giant collaborates with Slam Jam for The North Face Red, designer Edouard Gros discusses the influence of Armand Van Helden, rummaging through archives and the desire to create real wearable tech.

by i-D Staff
11 February 2016, 12:05pm

The North Face® are the go-to brand for outdoor gear. Forget its misinformed links with Normcore, the most Googled fashion trend of 2014. Since its inception as a small ski and backpacking brand in 1966, the company has concentrated on revolutionising the outdoor-gear industry. Outfitting accomplished climbers, mountaineers, snowsport athletes and explorers. Extremecore, anyone?

Moving beyond the greatest of great outdoors and into cities and towns, The North Face® entrusts the European distribution of a top tier Layering System to the Italian clothing company Slam Jam. The result is The North Face Red, an eight piece capsule collection of technical yet everyday outerwear that includes fresh takes on the iconic Mountain Jacket, Denali Jacket and Denali Sweat. As the product lands in selected boutiques Europewide, we caught up with designer Edouard Gros to talk Armand Van Helden, archive rummaging and real wearable tech.

What brought Slam Jam and The North Face® together? Why now?
We found with Slam Jam the perfect mix of coolness and technology expertise, they truly understand our best in class outdoor technology and how to bring it to the urban environment. Now, because durability and technology meets style.

What are your earliest memories of The North Face®?
I have two big memories of The North Face®. My grandfather was a Mountain Guide in the Alps and I spent a lot of time with him on different hikes. He was always wearing the latest gear which included a lot of The North Face®. Then years later, as a lot of kids of my generation we spend time watching music videos on MTV. In 1999 Armand Van Helden released You Don't Even Know Me and that puffy The North Face has vest stuck in my head ever since!

What was the starting point for the capsule collection? With a 30 year archive to play with, where did you begin?
Going through the archive, the first feeling that struck me was the spirit of adventure of the brand roots. Was founded in 1966 in a post war America, The North Face® grew from a Beat Generation circle of climbers providing them gear to live a life of adventure without limits in Yosemite Valley in California. It's all illustrated in a great movie called Valley Uprising.

The Layering Collection started in 2014 actually when I met Sally McCoy who was Product Manager of our legendary 1985 Mountain Jacket. She explained how revolutionary this jacket was for the outdoor industry in terms of designs, color boldness, best in class technology and usage. The Mountain Jacket was truly the first element to what she called the Layering System which later could be combined with the Denali Jacket. The idea behind the layering system is simply versatility. The Denali brings different levels of heat and the Mountain Jacket is a shell that is meant to protect you from rain and wind. Both of them together offer the optimal protection.

Beyond the archive, what inspires you?
There is a real interest and passion for the outdoors mixed with urban life. On a weekend I can spend Saturday in the city and Sunday up in the mountains. I am very curious in meeting collectors, passionate, athletes and really understanding everything about their expeditions, how they prepare, what they eat, how is their life at base camp. It's well explained in this movie which won the U.S. Documentary Audience Award at Sundance Film Festival.

Could you introduce the eight piece collection in your own words?
The eight pieces are built around these Iconic silhouettes: 1990 Mountain Jacket in GoreTex technology, the iconic must have. Denali, Asymmetric technical Bomber and his evolution in bonded sweat/ The collection features a geometrical print which ties back to our triangle stitching reinforcements used in the 70s when jackets were produced in Berkeley, California. The triangle shape reminds of mountains translated in an alloverprint which was inspired by the Japanese Seigaiha ocean waves pattern.

Will this collaboration continue? What excites you about tomorrow? What's next?
Of course! In Fall 2016 we will continue the Layering System and introduce new technologies!

The North Face Red Spring 2016 is available at selected boutiques Europewide.


Images courtesy of The North Face®

The North Face
slam jam
edouard gros