Rewind Nature: The North Face’s Tim Hamilton on Sustainable Design 

GeThe North Face and REI have joined forces to launch REWIND NATURE, a series that springs from our desire to roll back time—to when the Earth was cleaner, cooler and wilder. Inspired by the Eco Heritage Collection, the series produced in partnership with National Geographic spotlights changemakers who are taking a step forward to reverse the damage we’ve caused to our planet, and brings to light actionable ways to make small changes that have a big impact.

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Less than 1 percent of material used to produce clothing is recycled into new textiles, according to an Ellen MacArthur Foundation report. And at its current rate, the industry is expected to account for a quarter of global carbon emissions by 2050.

“The garment industry needs to take a stand,” says Tim Hamilton, global head of design at The North Face. “We have to collectively come together and find ways to solve these problems.”

As part of a shared commitment to a more sustainable future, REI is proud to partner with the The North Face to bring you their Eco Heritage Collection, which features three iconic styles, now made with 100 percent recycled fabrics and down.

Here, Hamilton weighs in on how we can rethink our relationship to and the production of consumer goods.

On working in the New York garment industry and deciding to leave.

I lived in New York for about 20 years. I lived in the grind. I got to a point where I was making all this incredible press and getting all these great reviews and traveling the world and showcasing in Paris and New York. It just felt like more and more product being put out there. And it felt more momentary, kind of reactionary, too. Why are we forcing these things on the consumer that they don’t need? For what purpose? To get editorial? To get cool people to wear your stuff? It lasts maybe a moment. That wasn’t gratifying to me.

Some of the horrific things that you hear about the garment industry of throwaway clothing, fast fashion, things that don’t last, things that are trend-driven, you do get to a point like, “I don’t want to be part of that. I don’t want to be part of something that’s not authentic or has substance or reason to live.” I finally was just like, “Let’s make the move.”

On rethinking his approach to making clothes.

I still love to make garments. I still love to design, but put a different importance behind it from probem-solving to utilitary function, things that you need rather than things that serve a momentary, you know, want.

On the power of circular design to change the garment industry.

Circular design, to me, is a lot of different components. How long a garment’s going to last, the performance needs, the problems you’re trying to solve. Immediately, people think it’s just about a recycled garment, but it’s more than that.

As designers, we’re the ones creating the product and we have to think in this circular design way to really make a change—change the way we think, change the way we look at the necessity of garments. Are they more of a moment or are they more of something that you’re going to invest in and at some point repair or have renewed or give to someone else that can use it? The most sustainable you can be with a garment is to make a garment that lasts a lifetime.

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