Smart Talks / The VF group moves toward a circular economy



At Première Vision Paris, Julian Lings, head of sustainable development at The North Face, reveals the enormous economic potential of transitioning to a circular model.

Report from the Smart Talk held 21 September 2018 at Première Vision Paris. VF Corporation evolves into a circular business model | Julian Lings, Sustainability Manager at The North Face EMEA

Since 2017, Vanity Fair (VF), a group with 30 lifestyle brands, has taken another step towards its conversion to a circular economy by adopting the “Made for Change” program. Julian Lings, Sustainability Manager for The North Face in Europe, recalls the basis for that decision. “The linear system is obviously unsustainable and continues to throw 3 million tons of clothing into landfills yearly. It’s no longer tenable.” Yet at the same time, consumer awareness is steadily increasing, which is encouraging garment manufacturers to invest in new approaches that respect people, the planet and products. The group has three strategic directions that each brand experiments with depending on its specificities.

Circular design aims to prolong the life of products and make them reusable. The collection of Eastpak bags remade by Christopher Ræburn, created from army scrap, is an example of this modularity. Other original strategies concern the brand’s new distribution channels.

“One of the major opportunities the circular system brings to brands is multiplying the points of contact with the customer,” observes Ling. One focus, clothing rental, is taken very seriously by The North Face. An analysis of current practices in seasonal mountain recreation shows how much more advisable it is to rent equipment for a short stay than make a definitive purchase.

Another even more promising avenue is the “second lifemarket, which is growing by 8% per year and is expected to reach 33 billion euros by 2025. This “re-commerce” consists of selling refurbished and reconditioned items. Driven by the high performance of its articles on the specialised U.S. “Thred Up” platform, The North Face has decided to launch its own re-commerce channel called “Renewed.” The preparation of articles, their reconditioning and their authentication is ensured in partnership with the specialised Renewal workshop. Currently, Lings sees “a terrific lever to develop cross selling, increase demand and capture new margins.”


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