Last night—Monday, October 30, at an all-white, loft-style pop up gallery in New York City’s Lower Manhattan, The North Face (TNF) unveiled the competition uniforms that the US Freeskiing Olympic Team will don at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, in PyeongChang, South Korea. The exclusive event featured current and former US Freeskiing Team members and TNF athletes Aaron Blunck, Maddie Bowman, Devin Logan and Tom Wallisch, as well as TNF veterans Sage Cattabriga-Alosa and Scot Schmidt, and provided guests—including Team FREESKIER—with a behind-the-scenes look at the inspiration and craftsmanship behind the uniforms.
As you may recall, The North Face was tasked with designing the US Freeskiing Olympic Team’s competition uniforms back in 2014, when halfpipe and slopestyle skiing made their Olympic debut in Sochi, Russia. The mission then was to deliver not only top-tier technical performance but also to keep the athletes’ stylistic needs in mind, all while providing a cohesive look for all members of the team. The MO remained the same as TNF once again took on the challenge of producing Olympic apparel; with more than 60 pieces in the new collection, athletes can customize their look to fit both their fashion and function needs.
“We couldn’t be more proud to partner with the US Ski and Snowboard Association to produce these uniforms and outfit the US Freeskiing Team,” said Tom Herbst, VP of Marketing for The North Face, before last night’s audience. “The dream of becoming an Olympic athlete remains one of the most aspirational and exciting stories for young boys and girls across and country and across the world. Freeskiing in particular… these athletes often start in small towns that dot our country, from the Sierra Nevada to the Rust Belt and all the way to New England. It’s from these humble beginnings that these athletes work, sweat and strive to find glory on the global stage. We couldn’t be more proud to provide them with the technology and performance that they need to reach those goals. This year, our Olympic uniforms and the stories behind them celebrate this journey. They’re inspired by our athletes and by the spirit of ingenuity that powers everything that we do at The North Face.”
Indeed, those “humble beginnings” are reflected in each and every stitch of the new garments. The North Face even called upon the athletes’ parents (unbeknownst to the athletes) to submit imagery of their kids as youngsters; those photos form a collage on the interior of the various jackets in the collection. All in all, the line includes outerwear, base layers, accessories and footwear.
“This is a process that started about two years ago, and as you know, we work very closely with our athletes,” said Dan Ramos, TNF’s Director of Product for Mountain Sport. “We worked with Maddie, Aaron and Devin, and Tom as well, and brought them into the offices… we worked from the concept stages through the design development and through the final product. ‘Legacy Starts Here.’ That really is the mantra that the team lived by throughout the development and design of this uniform. It is one of the key filters that we used to create this uniform.”
Ruth Beatty, TNF’s Design Director in the snow category, explained further: “One of the first things we heard from our athletes is the huge sense of pride they have representing their country on the world stage, and when we started our design process we felt the same. We wanted to create a uniform that not only represented America but also allowed each athlete to express themselves as the unique individuals that they are.”
In looking at the garments, the nod to NASA’s Apollo program is immediately apparent. Look closer, and you’ll notice that zippers were modeled after the shape of space shuttles and tiny engravings on some buttons read, “Give ’em hell.” The placement of “USA” on the jacket sleeves is intended to account for the fact that athletes will be competing in PyeongChang with bibs that cover their chest and back. The uniforms’ understated, earthy tones pay homage to the idea of American workwear and heritage textiles.
Key tech elements of the new US Freeskiing Olympic Team collection include The North Face’s Ventrix and FuseForm technologies; Ventrix helps to regulate body temperatures through dynamic venting technology and FuseForm reduces weight via an innovative weaving process. Beyond boasting grade-A construction, the uniforms, as aforementioned, were designed to fit stylistic needs, too. Athletes will have the option of a slim-fitting, regular-fitting or loose-fitting pant. Shoes, puffy vests and other items can be donned off the mountain. Many items walk the line of “street to peak,” including a new hoodie—which TNF says is the seminal piece of the collection, an iconic piece of clothing that epitomizes the spirit and style of the freeskiing community both on and off the mountain—that is is fully waterproof.
Halfpipe skier Bowman half-joked about the new hoodie, “You can wear it in pretty much all conditions. I’ve always wanted one of these. I’m not going to take it off, ever.”
Bowman added, “Your personal style, from tricks during a run to the apparel you are wearing, is such a huge part of the sport. No one knows this better than The North Face. They have been a part of the sport since the beginning, and a part of my own Olympic journey to [a gold medal] in Sochi. The new collection celebrates both the team aspect of the sport and the individuality of the rider, and I am proud to wear it as I work to defend my gold.”
The competition uniforms were designed and crafted in the U.S. near TNF’s headquarters in Alameda, California, to keep prototyping and assembly close to home and to celebrate the Red, White and Blue in the manufacturing process.
The North Face’s support of the 2018 Games continues the brand’s longstanding commitment to freeskiing. The North Face first sponsored what is now known as the Freeride World Tour in 2003. Additionally, The North Face became a founding partner when the United States Ski and Snowboard Association announced the new US Freeskiing brand and team, in 2011. Ever since, The North Face has not only supported athletes of elite caliber, but also at the developmental level; The North Face has been an active supporter of the US Freeskiing Rookie Team while also sponsoring, hosting and promoting The North Face Park and Pipe Open Series (PPOS), founded in 2010, in which athletes compete in slopestyle and halfpipe both in-person and via a digital competition forum—in both cases amateurs have the opportunity to compete alongside top pros and advance their national and international ranking. The North Face has also been an avid supporter of freeskiing dating back to the early 80s; the brand sponsored Scot Schmidt in 1983 and the athlete-brand relationship continues formally today, making it one of the foremost longstanding partnerships in the sport.
The Olympic uniform unveiling comes in the lead-up to the “100 days to PyeongChang” celebration, to be hosted in New York City’s Times Square on Wednesday, November 1.