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Can The North Face Make Outerwear From Trees?

The North Face and textile brand Spinnova will partner to develop a way to spin tree-derived fiber into outerwear that’s both ultra sustainable and adventure-capable.

On August 16, The North Face announced a new partnership with sustainable textile producer Spinnova. Together, the companies will develop Spinnova’s proprietary, “zero percent harmful” wood pulp fiber to create a fully circular line of goods.

Estimates currently slate initial production for late 2022. Given how much research, testing, setup, sourcing, and construction a project of this magnitude requires, one year doesn’t seem like much time at all.

The project is too new to expect product line specifics, but here’s what we know about the duo’s objectives so far.

Tree-Derived Fiber Outerwear Applications

TNF Display from Outdoor Retailer 2018
(Photo/Lee Pruitt, The North Face)

Precisely how TNF will ultimately put Spinnova’s tree-derived fiber to work remains to be seen. Both companies report that the fiber is highly durable and insulating. It’s apparently versatile, too — appropriate for a litany of soft goods including apparel, performance gear, footwear, or even bedding.

Spinnova’s Fully Circular Focus

According to Spinnova’s co-founder and CEO, Janne Poranen, the fiber promotes a holistically circular product lifecycle. What that means: It isn’t just recyclable and biodegradable — upcycling wood pulp fiber products won’t require the use of caustic solvents or additional water. The process would be a substantial departure from current gear upcycling practices.

“We mechanically treat the wood pulp and extrude it into fiber without harmful chemicals or water. This means that, in the future, a product can be taken back from the consumer by a brand we work with, delivered to our process, and turned into new fiber, in some cases without even dismantling the product. No tricks or shortcuts: this is the same process we use for new fiber. The upcycled fiber does not lose quality.”

What’s Next?

Trees and a roundabout. TNF and Spinnova hope to use the tree-derived fiber to inspire a more circular green economy.
(Photo/Thomas Lambertt, Shutterstock)

Should things go according to plan, the new partnership between TNF and Spinnova may prove pivotal in an even broader context. According to the companies’ joint press release from Monday, the effort “starts a journey towards commercializing sustainable products.”

If successful, the fully circular production model could take off or inspire other industry titans to innovate in the same direction. We’ll have to wait and see, but in the meantime, feel free to hope.

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Jilli Cluff

Jilli grew up in the rural southern Colorado mountains, later moving to Texas for college. After seven years in corporate consulting, she was introduced to sport climbing — and life would never be the same. She now works as a contributor, gear tester, and editor for GearJunkie and other outlets within the AllGear family. She is based out of Atlanta, Georgia where she takes up residence with her climbing gear and one-eared blue heeler, George Michael.