Today, outdoor apparel company The North Face launches the second installment of its locally and domestically produced clothing line, The Backyard Project. For this new line, The North Face challenged itself to find ways to expand and scale its pilot project with a goal of increasing both domestic production and impact. The Backyard Project again brought together a collective of farmers, artisans and small businesses to achieve increased production, new styles and colors and a lower price point for consumers.
The Evolution of the Backyard Project
In November 2014, The North Face set out to design its first all-cotton hoodie grown, designed, cut and sewn within 150 miles of The North Face headquarters in Alameda, California. Harnessing key learnings from that inaugural capsule collection, this year’s Backyard Project has scaled significantly in quantity and style, while decreasing the hoodie price. From last year’s single-color, unisex hoodie, The Backyard Project has expanded to now include men’s t-shirts, and both men’s and women’s full zip and pullover hoodies, and will now be available in more than eight colors — all sourced and manufactured within the USA.
“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.”
Los Angeles: The Hub of the American Garment Industry
In order to scale the project, The North Face moved the majority of production from the Bay Area to Los Angeles for this edition. This allowed The North Face to work with small Los Angeles-based businesses including Antex, JC Industries and Care-Tex Industries, who represent a combined 118 years of experience in the apparel industry and deep expertise in domestic manufacturing.
Brands such as Reformation (also based in Los Angeles) and initiatives such as Manufacture New York have revived domestic apparel manufacturing on a smaller scale, but The North Face’s efforts could help spur a broader wave of bringing production back home.
“The Backyard Project emphasizes the importance of ‘Made in the USA.’ 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,” says Paul Kang, director of Care-Tex Industries, who dyed The Backyard Project garments this year.
Grown and Sewn in the USA
100 percent of the cotton used for The Backyard Project was grown in the USA. The project benefitted from the expertise of American farmers such as Jim Olvey of The Natural Hue Company, who has been a cotton breeder for 40 years; and Ted Sheely, who uses innovative precision irrigation technologies, aerial imagery and GPS tractor guidance to maximize yields on the Sheely Family Farm in Stratford, California. 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.
"For the initial Backyard Collection, we learned that the infrastructure to card and spin the yarn simply didn't exist in California; at this time, the infrastructure is [still] not available for the full supply chain to exist in California," James Rogers, sustainability manager at The North Face, said via email. "We have a great relationship with artisans in the Carolinas where this infrastructure does still exist, so we performed those steps in North and South Carolina before bringing the yarn back to California for the rest of the process. For the second iteration of the Backyard Collection, we had the same challenges but appreciate that the work can still be done within the US.
"For the Backyard Collection, we would love to keep the production closer to home as was the initial goale learned a lot in the process of creating these garments and will continue to evaluate other options," Rogers said.
The expanded line of Backyard Project products will be available in select retail stores and online in the US starting today.