The North Face’s City-Ready SS20 Black Series Collection

Fusing streetwear with superior function, this release signals a foray into fashion-centric design

The North Face has always focused on the outdoor space first and foremost. In fact, their technical garments are some of the most capable and innovative on the market and their long history of high-demand collaborations (Maison Margiela, Supreme, and Brain Dead among others) and successful original concepts (Purple Label, Summit Series, and FUTURELIGHT) reveal the brand’s impact on the wider fashion industry, as well. This culminates in their most comprehensive release from their Black Series label yet (spring/summer 2020) and an international unveiling during Paris Fashion Week.

For those tuned in to the seasonal show circuit, the presence of outdoor gear is not uncommon. Technical garments have long held a place in fashion’s orbit. Capitalizing on their influence and the excitement around products that are capable but stylish, The North Face (over the past three years) enlisted a cast of talent who could design a collection that would employ its most advanced fabrics and materials, and rival luxury releases that use outdoor products as reference points.

Tim Hamilton (The North Face’s current Head of Global Creative) assumed his position in 2017 after decades of work with Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman, J. Crew and more. A three-time CFDA nominee and one-time winner, Hamilton also has a personal interest in the outdoors that’s meant he keeps tabs the industry’s most respected outfitters. When he took over, one of the brand’s primary missions became instating the Black Series as a vital component of the brand.

The North Face team aimed to take it from a covert operation exclusive to a handful of markets to something that bridges the gap between the company’s past and future releases. It was a subset of the larger operation that produced city-ready bags, jackets, pants and tops at affordable prices—given the fact these are fashionable garments made from performance fabrics.

The North Face Design Manager Mona Al-Shaalan plays a crucial part in this mission. Ahead of the Black Series’ global announcement today, and its widespread retail release on 26 February, we spoke with her to discuss the launch, how it began, and who it’s for.

There is a long history of people wearing The North Face products in cities despite the products being made for harsh conditions. Can you explain how you approached a collection for the city? 

The North Face would be nothing without its heritage, and while building this collection, we felt that we must stay true to our DNA. We drew inspiration from styles, like our Mountain Light Jacket, that have a place in the city and on the mountain, and approached them in a more thoughtful, innovative and elevated way in order to demand attention within the broader fashion landscape. By unlocking the brand’s rich heritage to create lines that are hyper-minimal, modern and sustainable, we dare to disrupt the landscape all while upholding our goal of making timeless designs that are built to last a lifetime.

This season’s collection also has a heightened focus on woman’s apparel. Can you expand upon this?

Previous Black Series collections were largely dedicated to the men’s business, so a large focus for this collection was to design pieces specifically for women that accentuate her shape and speak to the relationship between fashion and function. In a space saturated with men’s styles, we are excited to present a collection that includes ultra-feminine silhouettes that fit and feel like they are designed by and for women rather than an adaptation of men’s pieces. As an outdoor brand, we are also looking forward to offering more options for women when it comes to performance outerwear in desirable styles and shapes.

In many ways, this collection reimagines the company’s original styles for a new generation. Were those pieces some of the primary influences for this collection?

To build Black Series, we looked to our past and took inspiration from the shape, materials and construction of key icon product—namely the Mountain Light jacket, one of The North Face’s most popular and recognizable performance pieces. Working closely with The Lifetime Warranty Department, the design team used insights from how product was used in the field and how it has developed over the years to explore new construction techniques and textiles that still embody the brand’s commitment to its core values in a meaningful way.

The North Face designed Black Series for trailblazers

Does this signal a larger push into the fashion space with original The North Face Black Series products and not collaborations? Where and by whom would you like to see these worn?

Insights from The North Face’s past collaborations provided that there is an appetite in the market for a collection like Black Series. Many brands are merging high fashion with outdoor style, but none own this space the way The North Face does, and with Black Series and future design-led collections we aim to take our iconic silhouettes and distill them to their purist form, then rebuild into timeless reimaginations for a new, more fashion-minded consumer. The North Face designed Black Series for trailblazers, the true leader of the pack.

Images courtesy of The North Face