The Potential of Collaborative Effort in Sustainability – in conversation with Julian Lings, Senior Manager, Brand Sustainability at VF Corporation

Wouldn’t it be nice if outdoor brands shared concrete strategies on doing good for the environment? Sharing insights into new technologies of producing materials more eco-friendly? Together, ensuring that carbon emissions decrease a lot faster, and product development becomes more and more sustainable to combat climate change.

It’s a mission already realized across nations, with The Paris Agreement bringing them together for a common cause. So why not integrate shared goals into businesses as well?

Of course, the logical (or economical) answer seems to be that companies won’t share their business advantages. In 2021, it’s more important than ever for brands to behave environmentally-friendly to strengthen their customer relationships, with consumers favoring products which meet their own requirements of sustainability. A shared-value approach that is uniting businesses with sustainable and community-building progress.
Having a thorough sustainability strategy set up is creating a competitive advantage - giving that away doesn’t appear to be in line with capitalism. Nevertheless, it might be a great chance to achieve a bigger impact in bettering the world. But is it merely a fantasy?

Who better to ask than the outdoor industry itself - or at least, key players in roles having the power to make change happen. One of these people is Julian Lings, Senior Manager, Brand Sustainability at VF Corporation. He makes it clear that the necessity of partnerships has long since reached the outdoor industry. Be it under one roof at enterprises who are uniting brands for common sustainability goals, or industry wide, with brands coming together for the good cause of bettering the world in the European Outdoor Group. So, what is happening in the world of the outdoor industry? Giving us an insight into the walls of his own work, we asked Julian to shed some light on the change happening in the industry.

Building sustainable businesses across brands in an enterprise

In the last years, we’ve seen companies putting sustainability on the top of their agendas, publishing ambitious goals in reducing their carbon footprints, choosing responsible manufacturers, focusing on recycled and reusable materials, and designing with circularity principles in mind. Of course, so does VF Corporation.

VF is one of the largest apparel retailers in the world, leading the way in cross-brand sustainability strategy in the outdoor industry. In total, they unite 13 brands under one roof, outdoor being one of their main sections with brands like The North Face, Icebreaker, Smartwool and Timberland. Under the motto “We are made for change”, VF is looking for a way to improve people’s lives and make the world better, with the necessary power and influence only a company of this size and (wo)manpower can have. Uniting brands and respectively their consumers for the same goals, creating shared values. Their shared sustainable practice makes it possible that those brands enable each other while staying true to their own identity, reach bigger successes in acting sustainable - or with purpose - together instead of alone - and at the same time, generate a better revenue.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/KgsunZKvLqc

In 2017, they decided to transform from linear to circular production. Realizing this for 13 brands simultaneously, that's a change happening on a grand scale.

To ensure that their goals are met according to their plan, VF is acting on two levels: Brand and Global. Each respective brand sustainability teams take care of improving the environmental impact for its brand, focusing directly on the aspects that concern each specific brand. The global sustainability team supports each brand team and keeps track of the overall process across all brands and corporate-wide. A must if change is supposed to happen: “The goal of shaping a sustainable future for people and the planet is going to require radical changes, from government policy, private and public finance, to the way that we do business every day. For business, those changes won’t happen by individual functions acting in isolation. The systemic changes that are needed will require a business wide response that brings together the skills and expertise of all functions to shape the sustainable future that we must strive to create.” (Julian Lings)

When actual change happens: Reducing the carbon footprint

A concrete example of what they have achieved in the last years is their collaborative effort of reducing the carbon footprint. According to Julian, “60-80% of our carbon emissions are produced in material processing and product manufacturing. How material is made into products. Consequently, one of our main goals is shifting to materials with a low carbon impact. For The North Face, it is polyester and nylon, where we prioritize recycled materials. For Smartwool, it is about transitioning to recycled or regenerative wool. Each brand has its unique targets.“ 

One of the most important materials to focus on for most brands is cotton. Around 50% of all textiles world-wide are made from its fiber. Unfortunately, conventional cotton farming processes are a significant contributor to biodiversity loss, soil erosion, and carbon emissions. With 1.5 million units of apparel and footwear produced by VF’s brands, this is one of the biggest chances to deliver results by collaborating to meet their targets until 2030. That's why they are changing their course from conventional farm methods to innovative ones.

Soil acts as a vital carbon sink by sequestering carbon into the ground. Normally, conventional farming and agriculture is responsible for a significant amount of greenhouse gas emissions. However, regenerative farming solutions allow us to turn it around by enhancing soil carbon sequestration, for example, by no-till farming technique, or enriching the soil with compost.“, says Julian.

A development of new cultivation, especially with exchanging synthetic fertilizers with organic compost, results not only in better soil health and biodiversity, but also offers the tantalizing prospect of having a net carbon positive impact. Obviously, this isn’t done by VF alone, but in cooperation with responsible manufacturers and companies that focus on developing innovative ways to act more sustainably.

When companies come together, change happens

Or how the popular saying goes: "Alone we are a drop, together we are an ocean".

What we can learn from the example above is that the moment that brands are focusing on partnerships outside of their own walls is where the collaborative effect is becoming clearer.

Using our scale for good is intrinsically linked to a recognition that despite our size, only by working in partnership with others can we truly leverage our scale to address the biggest challenges the world faces. Breaking new ground on sustainable innovations such as regenerative agriculture can only be done by cultivating partnerships with NGOs, companies, and external experts.“ (Julian Lings)

A great example would be the development of The North Face Cali Wool Beanie project. This project was the brand’s first foray into regenerative agriculture and was only made possible through their partnership with Fibershed – a non-profit that develops regional and regenerative fiber systems on behalf of independent working producers. The growing and sewing took place regionally in California, bringing it back to their North American home. As a so-called “bioregional garment Project", regional fibers are integrated into the existing global textile supply chains, which are normally dominated by foreign manufacturers.

The partnerships from brands with NGOs allow for embodying an all-encompassing approach of environmental values and social responsibility. Adding an important step to the ladder of product design & manufacturing, which starts way before recycling and reducing, or creating awareness for environmental products. It’s a necessity to truly turn the outdoor industry around, not only on the outside, but inside its core.

From competition to collaboration - for a sustainable future across brands in the outdoor industry

Now that we have seen what is possible for one company and its partners alone, the question is: Will there ever come a day where competitive outdoor brands act together to make a change? A question that we want to direct to Julian: "Definitely. Collaboration between brands has been well-established in the outdoor sector for many years. We’ve been collaborating on a range of subjects, and the output of that work has been very important on specific topics. For example, the outdoor brands in Europe came together on the issue of microfibres, and helped to establish The Microfibre Consortium which has since become one of the leading organizations on textile microfibres. Similarly, these same brands have come together more recently to establish the Single Use Plastics Project to accelerate the work being done to address this critically important challenge."

The collaborative approach cross-industry and on a global level of The Microfibre Consortium and Single Use Plastics Project accelerated the progress of research and development, which couldn’t be done on this scale as stand-alone companies. A positive outlook for a near future where sustainability becomes at least as important as creating revenue. It’s a way of changing the industry as a whole, with VF being a strong pioneer pointing in the right direction.


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The Power of Identity and Purpose at The North Face – an Interview with their Brand Experience Manager Marco Mombelli

05th July 2020

The Power of Identity and Purpose at The North Face – an Interview with their Brand Experience Manager Marco Mombelli

The North Face is the largest outdoor brand in the world, not only in regards to their gear and products, but especially in terms of a strong identity. They are not plainly selling products, but have managed to create a voice that communicates their values of Authenticity, Empowerment, Perseverance and Environmental Responsibility. The North Face has been creating a brand experience which is involving their customers directly and invites them to live their slogan "Never stop exploring" instead of just reading or hearing about it.

One of the people making this possible is Marco Mombelli who is the Brand Experience Manager of The North Face. In his role, he develops and manages the brand experience strategy, especially by optimising their physical touchpoints to create a community and enable them to go outdoors. Furthermore, Marco is a great interlocutor and thus, has been up to an extended interview about his role and the very big topics of brand experience and brand purpose.

In this interview, we got insights into:

  • how The North Face's brand experience inspires, connects and enables their customers to explore and protect the Outdoors
  • why every lifestyle & outdoor brand essentially has to develop a strong identity and voice
  • how purpose affects VF Corporation and its brand The North Face and why to strive for doing good and doing well

As we talked to Marco back in the beginning of May 2020, we also took the opportunity to address the Covid-19 crisis and how The North Face managed to still enable people to explore in times of a lockdown.

When looking at your career, you’ve been working in the sports business since 2002 for different brands before you became part of The North Face in 2015. What has drawn you to work at TNF?

MM: I actually started working at VF in 2008 and recently celebrated my 12th anniversary which is amazing. How did I end up working at The North Face? Wow, where do I start? I mean, everything in my life has led me to my current role. My family used to run a small business selling building materials, and after studying accounting in high school I felt it was my destiny to do something entrepreneurial.  But I realized I had more to learn so, I decided to continue my education and  go to university, where I studied Communication and Public Relations. 

I started working in 2002 for Red Bull as a Student Brand Manager and after a year I was promoted to Assistant Brand Manager. At the time, I was still studying and I was in a punk rock band that was becoming popular - we had a video on TV and a second album due, which obviously took up a lot of my energy! I knew I was taking on too much, but I knew if I quit school, my parents would kill me! So, it was a decision between Brand Management and Rock’n’Roll.  I decided Brand Management could wait – and I chose school and rock’n’roll

And then?

MM: I kept studying and kept working hard with the band.  Being part of a band was a great experience, but I soon realized that Rockstardom wasn’t for me, so I got back on track.  I found a great job at Connexia, one of the biggest PR companies in Milan. After a few years there I was contacted by the Country Manager of Vans Italy and I started to work for Vans in 2008. I was the Marketing Manager in charge of pretty much everything - from athletes to PR to events. 

I was based in Milan for the role and although I loved the city experience I missed the mountains, the lake and my family. 

I was eager to move to the VF EMEA HQ in Stabio, Switzerland  which was closer to the mountains and closer to my hometown. Unfortunately, there were no positions at Vans, but there was a good opportunity at the Reef brand instead. At the time, my manager said, “It’s a small brand, but it could be a good platform for you to have a more European role”. Not a big team to manage, but I was in charge of the whole brand at the European level, which again was a great learning experience for me. After some time with Reef I realised I wanted to join a bigger brand, with more structure and when an opportunity to join The North Face came along I took it. 

The role was maternity cover, stepping in as Wholesale Marketing Manager in charge of Spain, Italy, the Nordics and the Netherlands. It felt very natural. Even though my previous experience was with action sports brands, I have a real love for the mountains and have snowboarded since 1991. I felt an immediate connection to the TNF culture and people and I knew it was the right step.

And how did you end up becoming The North Face’s Brand Experience Manager?

MM: Once the maternity cover position ended, I swapped roles again, moving to the Retail Team and working on retail transformation - shaping the way for stores to move from shopping spaces to brand experience platforms and finding new ways to interact with and to engage consumers.

Your responsibility is optimizing the brand’s physical touchpoints. How do you actually  improve the experience at a retail level?

MM: I was challenged to create the first TNF Community Program in 2016. We created the first one in London, using our physical stores as a Hub for the Community to meet up before going outside to explore, to meet for workshops and to listen to talks from our athletes. 

We now have 9 Communities across Europe and we engage with more than 20,000 Community Members on a yearly basis. The Community Groups take up most of my focus and I’m very proud of this. You really get the chance to have a positive impact on people’s lives. On a weekly basis, we offer sessions with personal trainers specializing in outdoor activities who lead either outdoor workouts or activities such as indoor climbing.   After London, we developed Communities in Munich, Berlin, Paris, Milan, Stockholm, Chamonix, Manchester, Bolzano – focusing on key cities and awesome outdoor destinations.

The North Face Shop in Soho, New York: An area to get inspired and hang out in the community
Photo Credit: The North Face/Sasha Turrentine

So, you’re saying that a shop is not a shop, but a place for a community to meet. Where they can exchange their minds, their opinion, just watch a movie together, connect.

MM: Yes! I could tell you a thousand stories of people making new friends through our Community Program!  In our Community Groups, you are sure to find likeminded people with whom you share the same passion for the Outdoors.

In the end, we are successful because of the passion of our Community Managers and Community Members. If you talk to someone who is a snowboard enthusiast, a skateboarder or an Outdoor person in general, they love (and will talk forever) about their passion, whether its hiking, climbing, skateboarding or snowboarding. This passion is behind every product we sell. Behind every jacket and backpack and shoe. It’s a culture, you know. It’s something that brings people together.

In you could put it as simply as possible, what does the term ‘brand experience’ mean?

MM: Our team of Community Managers and I take our inspiring campaigns and stories and bring them to life by providing a platform for people to participate. Without this approach, our consumers would be spectators, looking at pages in a magazine or films online. We want to enable people to actually experience our brand stories, The North Face brand, and in turn become a part of it.  I believe this is truly important. 


My generation were educated to be spectators. You watch a movie, and the actor is the star, right? The young people of today are different – they want to be the protagonist - the hero of their own story. They don’t want to only be inspired. They want to be enabled. I like that!

Marco Mombelli, Brand Experience Manager @ The North Face

And how does this affect the role of the customer and the brand?

MM: Brand experience is about enabling. In the early 2000s and in the late 90s, brands focused on inspiring consumers. You showed them an advert, they got excited and eventually they went and bought something. My generation, I’m from 77, were educated to be spectators. You watch a movie, and the actor is the star, right? The young people of today are different – they want to be the protagonist - the hero of their own story. They don’t want to only be inspired. They want to be enabled. I like that!

So how can we do that? How can I do that? I think the role of a brand is becoming more and more about enabling people to experience something. Especially, with an audience like today’s generation that have such a wide choice of options. 

How are you solving experiential marketing during the current COVID-19 crisis?

MM: Of course, in this moment, being in charge of events is not ideal in any industry! But we’re focusing on how we can make training accessible for as many people as possible, as responsibly and safely as possible. 

You have to be flexible and agile in these situations, so we moved our physical touchpoints to a digital channel where people who were locked down could have an opportunity to work out with our trainers. We are using our athletes, influencers and members to help keep our community engaged and inspired. Because as you know, in this situation, staying fit and staying connected is very beneficial. We are using technology to motivate them to be prepared for their next adventure, as soon as we can all start exploring again.

In your opinion, how does Covid-19 affect the outdoor industry in general? 

MM: Right now in Italy, we are in phase two*, where people are allowed to do sports outside the home. So I think for us, for the outdoor industry, it presents a good opportunity. Pre-Covid-19, a lot of people used to go to the gym for fitness.  Now, in my opinion, the trails are the preferable place to train, to re-energize, to experience nature, and all the while maintaining social distance. 

At the moment, we want to support people, driven by our purpose of powering movements and active lifestyles. So how can we enable people to escape the city by themselves? We have the platform and the knowledge. My goal is really to use the network that we have to inspire and enable people to leave the city. 

*Note from Editor: The interview was held at the beginning of May when Italy had just entered phase 2 of the corona lockdown restrictions.

The North Face is also communicating „We will weather this storm together“ through your online channels right now. What’s behind this?

MM: This is part of our Explore Fund campaign. We’ve launched a ‘first of its kind’ fund, with 1million euros available to charities and organisations in the UK, Germany, Italy and France to ensure they are able to support exploration when it’s possible again. 

Do you think that the desire to explore and to go outside does help to create an environmental consciousness in society?

MM: Yes. I see that, in general, the current generation is more environmentally conscious, compared with past generations. The younger generation values sustainability. They value having the least negative impact on the planet as possible. 

What is important to highlight here is that although I believe everyone has the desire to explore, not everyone has easy access or exposure to the Outdoors – especially people living in big cities.   I think it’s important that we make the effort to show people what the Outdoors has to offer and to enjoy the Outdoors responsibly.   

For example, what we do quite successfully in our community in Stockholm, is plogging. It’s a combination of jogging and picking up trash.  Maja Tesch, who is one of our Community Managers there, is a leader in the plogging movement in Sweden. I see this as an important trend. It’s an activity that matches physical performance and doing your part. 

The result is impressive after one day of plogging / trail running with garbage collecting by The North Face Trail Academy

If we talk about sustainability, we should also take a look at purpose since brand management strategies in the 21st century often revolve around those two topics. What does brand purpose actually imply?

MM: That’s a very good question. One of the things that excites me the most about purpose is the chance of doing good and doing well - at VF we call it the power of „AND“. As a Purpose Led company, our focus is running a healthy business with a return for its investors, and at the same time, working for the betterment of people and planet, having a positive impact on our society. With a company on the scale of VF, with thousands of employees and touch points all around the globe, we can really enable people to do better. 

Nowadays, being a brand is more than a logo on a T-Shirt. Being a brand is a representation of a culture with rituals and with values. It is about having a strong identity. When you walk around with a The North Face T-Shirt, you are communicating what kind of person you are. If you take a look at VF’s brands, at Vans, The North Face, Timberland, you’ll immediately understand the lifestyle associated with them.

I don’t want to imply that brand management is becoming more and more important to guide society. But for sure, it’s one important factor. Brands have quite some influence, but also a lot of responsibility. We better find the right spot in between doing good and doing well.

How do you define The North Face’s brand purpose?

MM: Our brand ID is: „We dare to lead the world forward through exploration“. So, when you see our logo, you will immediately think of exploration. It’s not limited to physical and outdoor activities, but actually includes a state of mind. 

For me, exploration is the sum of curiosity and courage. Curious people daring to ask „Hey, what’s next?“. Explorers strike out in new directions, with curiosity, but also courage, pushing them further. Exploration has always been essential for human progress.

So, to simplify you could say that The North Face’s purpose is to completely embody exploration. We want to improve the world around us and find new ways to do so. But again, you need curiosity and courage to get to know what’s behind what we know already. It means embracing the culture of failure. How many times do you need to fail before you succeed? 


Take a look at the relevance of sustainability. Today, brands need to be sustainable or else you’re out of the market. Being purpose-led is probably the next determining factor. You need to have a voice, an identity. You need to generate disruptive change. I think the consumer is asking for that from a brand.

Marco Mombelli, BRand Experience Manager @ The North Face

Why do you think purpose is becoming such a big topic today among so many brands? 

MM: Take a look at the relevance of sustainability. Today, brands need to be sustainable or else you’re out of the market. Being purpose-led is probably the next determining factor. You need to have a voice, an identity. You need to generate disruptive change. I think the consumer is asking for that from a brand.

What role do you feel brand experience and purpose play in the internal culture of the North Face? 

MM: We have five internal guiding principles.  I have listed them below and explained what they mean to me personally and in my role.   The guiding principles are not part of a marketing campaign, but rather part of our brand purpose.  Whether you work in Finance, in Customer Service, in Sales, the principles are same for everyone. 

The internal guiding principles of The North Face:

  1. Love wild places.  Of course, we have to explore and protect our playground. If there’s no outdoor, there’s no outdoor industry. 
  2. Spark curiosity. It’s important to be curious. It’s an attitude, a state of mind, which is instrumental for exploration.
  3. Dare to disrupt. The North Face has always been bold. You can’t be a brand that pleases everyone. If you want to be authentic and true to yourself, you sometimes need to be disruptive. People sometimes need to be shocked about what you do.
  4. Create Community. And this is particularly meaningful for me. The power of being together.  In this time of social media, especially in big cities, people don’t talk to each other as much anymore – especially new people.  Instead we spy on each other through a screen. Through the TNF Communities, we have the chance to connect likeminded people on a regular basis, to actually spend time with them and to make new friends, to go outside, socialize and just connect. That’s something strong. That’s what I am really proud of. It actually gives me goose bumps to talk about it.
  5. Integrity. Very important. It’s self explanatory. 

Should employees or candidates thinking about applying at The North Face have an affinity for outdoor sports, for purpose, sustainability?

MM: To be honest, I think that if you work for a lifestyle or outdoor brand you should have passion for what the brand does and represents. In my opinion, only then, will you be able to fully contribute. If you’re not passionate about the outdoors, action sports, or whatever each brand embodies or represents, it’s not going to work. Either way it is a cool job, you work for VF, it’s a great company, it treats you well. But if it’s just a job for you, you can work for any other company, for example a bank. I mean, maybe you have a passion for banking and that’s the way to go. But if you want to work for the leading outdoor brand, you need to have passion for the Outdoors.


The North Face® is part of VF Corporation one of the world’s largest apparel, footwear and accessories companies connecting people to the lifestyles, activities and experiences they cherish most through a family of iconic outdoor, active and workwear brands including Vans®, Timberland® Eastpak®, Kipling®  and Dickies®

Our purpose is to power movements of sustainable and active lifestyles for the betterment of people and our planet. We connect this purpose with a relentless drive to succeed to create value for all stakeholders and use our company as a force for good. For more information, please visit vfc.com.

What does it take to be a Flagship Shop Manager? An interview with David Brown from Timberland

There’s three things about working in retail that you can learn from David Brown:

  1. Managing a retail team only works when you see yourself as one of them
  2. The right attitude is more important than experience 
  3. Purpose in your career can influence your whole life

As General Manager of Timberland’s new Purpose-Led Flagship Store in Carnaby Street, London, David Brown is responsible for 241 square meter retail space and managing a team of 24 to ensure the smooth operation of the daily business. To maintain this, his management and interpersonal skills need to be over-the-top - and here’s why: A flagship store is the leading store of a brand. Even though the typical KPIs like sales or turnover do matter, the main focus of the flagship store is on drawing attention and visitors. Thus, transforming it into a showcase with an extraordinary shopping experience. 

On one hand, this is achieved through a special interior design and a wide range of products. On the other hand though, the realization happens thanks to a high-quality team which also act as ambassadors for their brand.

The store and its employees are so to speak a prototype of retail, making David an experienced and valuable interview partner to get an insight into the career of a Shop Manager. 

In this interview, we talked with David about his work at Timberland’s new Purpose-Led Flagship Store, his managing skills and - important enough - purpose. 

Dear Readers, please meet David Brown.

So, David, you’re managing quite a big team. 

I’ve got a team of approximately 24 at the moment. 4 of those are managers as well, so making sure that the  delegation is handed out to the right managers in order to keep a smooth running operation of the store. Everyone is working on specific job roles that are required to complete a regular working day.

And what makes your team stand out? How would you describe it?

It’s very important for it to be family-orientated, because if you’re spending up to 40 hours work with certain individuals. You’re probably spending more time with them than you’re at home. The family atmosphere is very important, because I am a great believer in leading by examples. Whatever I do, I would expect my team to be up to the same thing. So family atmosphere is important. 

Talking about leading by example - which example do you give?

I love to give the most basic. We all use the toilet. We clean the toilet. I will mob the floors, so it’s never going to be something that I expect my team to shy away from. Because I am part of the team. So that is my number one example, it keeps a clear message that I am prepared to do anything that I would also ask them to do as well.

That is quite important and they probably appreciate it a lot.

I think it’s important because gone are the days where managing staff exempts you from doing the same work as the team. I am very much a team player and that is how we get positives on the day. And ensuring that everyone is on the same page.

Does it create a community?

Well, right now we have a big community in the store. We go out and work alongside charity shops, getting involved with any events that are happening in the local community. My role then tends to bring that community spirit within the store. If you lead by example, the team pretty much follow suit with that. 

It’s also something Timberland represents, the community spirit that the brand lives in their sustainability projects.

We live and breath that. Last night I was in my local area where we are re-greening the area. The turnouts of 500 volunteers turned up yesterday. And they finished it up with a live gig from which again brought a lot of the community together, so we can reflect that with the store as well.

Jumping back to 2015: What was the motivation back then to apply for the role as Shop Manager at Timberland?

I felt that I needed a change. I have been with my previous employer of work for 15 years. I needed to take on a challenge, and knowing certain individuals that were happy in a - we call it a big peoples-company - it’s.. you’re not serving kids, you’re serving professionals, you’re serving individuals from multiple components of life. And that really interested me. My aim was to go to a company where customer service was customer service. Being a manager you had the autonomy to do things in the store and be able to see the benefits from the work. And that’s what Timberland really stood out for for me. Also, being part of VF Group. Understanding how big the corporation was... we could literally do anything.

So did you find the challenge and the purpose in your job at Timberland?

Timberland has really opened my eyes in terms of purpose and how we bring it directly to the stores where we are selling on a day to day basis. And how we connect purpose to the customer.

Purpose has allowed me to switch from driving a Diesel Car to an electric car. My emissions is zero. And I’ve looked at my household where we have caused a minimum at emissions. We recycle. Food, waste, cardboard, plastic. So that’s some of the things that really have been influenced by working for Timberland.

Just to make a quick excursion, I had an interview with Alicia Pinckney, Designer @Timberland, and she actually said something similar: That she found a purpose in her job and a change in her lifestyle when she started working for Timberland. Which I personally think is amazing as it is something a lot of people aim for.

It’s definitely been life-changing because you’re comfortable, because you can see what the company’s philosophy stands for, where they want to take it. If I give an example, theres not one down-feathered jacket in my store and we have some fairly big jackets. It’s all recyclable materials.  So in-sync with what I do at home, what I do when I’m coming to work, what I do at work, for me, it’s like a cycle, for me being as green as I possibly can and Timberland has definitely kickstarted that.

And do you think you influence Timberland in return as well?

Definitely. I am in a unique position being in a flagship store. You’re able to talk to various levels in the business. They definitely listen, because it’s important. And if you feel that you been listened to, it also inspires you to do more things and to feel good by it.

Looking back on your own experience, if you had to give advice on how to achieve a career at a Flagship Store, maybe even as a Shop Manager, especially for Retail or Sales experienced candidates who would like to reach the next level. What would you say which qualities are absolutely essential for your job?

I think you need to be very open-minded. You need to come to a company like Timberland knowing that the level expectation that is needed has to be grown from within. You’ve got to be prepared to make changes, be prepared to evaluate what you’ve learned previously and how you can have the right attitudes which is what’s going to be needed.  And once you have that, you’ve got the foundation. 

Do you think a Shop Manager should always have been working in retail before?

No. I certainly don’t. That’s qualities that you can also bring even without the retail experience. And still can make a big difference in the store. I think gone are the days where one has to have 100% retail experience. It’s the right attitude and what they can bring to the team or to the store. You’ve got to be open.

Always. And good with people probably.

Yes, definitely. 


The article grabbed your attention and you would like to join the Timberland team? All jobs from Timberland can be found at their company profile and the Timberland career portal.

Editor's Note: Timberland is part of VF, the the global company behind around 30 of the world’s leading sports, outdoor and lifestyle brands.
Timberland ®’s dedication to make quality products is bringing outdoor adventures within your city lifestyle. A global leader in premium-quality footwear, apparel and accessories that is equally committed to environmental and social responsibility

How products come to life: An interview with Hermin Uzer from Napapijri

You might ask yourself: How exactly does a sketch from a Designer turn into a real product? As we just have a very general answer to this question ourselves, we passed it on to an expert in this field.
Hermin Uzer, Head of Product Development of Napapijri since 2011, translates design ideas and transforms them into three-dimensional products on a daily base, through all of the stages involved in developing outdoor apparel from concept to final product.

We were lucky to have her give us passionate insights into her work at Napapijri, shed some light on what exactly product development is (and what it is not) and after all, how it brings the brand to life.

Sportyjob: Let's jump right in. I have to admit I always found it difficult to really explain what Product Development actually is. Maybe you can help me and the readers get a better understanding of it. What exactly is it that you do at Napapijri?

Hermin Uzer: In a nutshell, product development is making the garments three-dimensional. You know, we make the garments real. There’s a lot that needs to be done, so where we start is basically when we get the briefing and the target from our merchandising team where they note the retail prices, the line architecture, what kind of innovations or carry-over-styles we need to consider. What the general direction is. It’s the same briefing that the designers get.
Based on that, we deliberate who the right vendor would be. And after that, we would get the initial sketches and ideation from the designers and we would work with the raw materials team to arrange all the components that are needed to make the product real.

SJ: So it’s basically the entire journey from the product. And if you would break it down how your department develops new products from scratch to market, how would you describe it?

We would start with the sketch from the designers and create a technical description for it. We then send the technical sketches to the vendor.
So, we make detail sheets, we scan sketches for construction and design features that we have to specify. This might be a very specific sleeve-construction, a specific fit or functionality that we need to take into consideration. It's really about every single detail. The color, the applications, prints, specific stitches. Maybe other features or handcrafts. Completely sketch out every single thing and component so that it's absolutely clear what the vendor needs to produce.

SJ: And after that?

HU: For the second step, we actually visit the vendor and together with them look at how the construction came out. Is it nice? Are there limitations? Do we have to make some adjustments? And directly in the factory, we work together with those vendors, making sure that the design is something that we can realize in the garment.

SJ: What's the biggest challenge about it?

HU: Our most intensive work is maintaining the design integrity within the possibilities that exist. So, coming back to what I said back earlier, the target that the merchandiser's define is a very important factor in product development, but keeping the design integrity is even more important. Because that, you know, that gives the wa-woomm and the life and the DNA to the brand!


The target that the merchandiser's define is a very important factor in product development, but keeping the design integrity is even more important. Because that, you know, that gives the wa-woom and the life and the DNA to the brand!

Hermin Uzer

HU: Anyway, that’s usually the part where we spend 80% work time on, going back and forth to the vendors, working on the washes, applications, the sizing, the construction, the workmanship, the pricing, the fabrics and everything. It’s a lot. It’s basically everything.
That’s why I said in a nutshell it’s making a design three dimensional. It’s not just going to the vendor and a sample comes out. It’s really working in translating the inspiration from the designer, but maintaining the KPI from the merchandiser in order for them to place it on the market.
After that, we would get a first product, we would have a review meeting with both merchandisers and the designers to get their feedback on the execution, on the color, on the intensity, on the price, etc. And usually, we construct a garment further until we get to a second prototype. And so on until the final product comes out.

SJ: A very extensive process.

HU: We also have to take into consideration the testing part on quality: this requires testing of the fabric and the components, but also full testing of the garment - do all features and benefits work in construction, such as seam-taping, or wash details, colour migration? Does the fabric work in combination with the excecution – pilling, snagging, and so on. To make sure we deliver an up to standard product to the consumer, we have to look at each and every aspect while developing.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZwQ7uOoWik
Hermin Uzer goes into further detail on how she develops products for Napapijri


SJ: It seems like Product Development and the Design process are very entwined. You studied Design yourself at the AMFI. Does it come in handy for your position?

HU: I would say yes and no. It’s very difficult. I mean I started out as a Designer indeed. However, at the time that I started, Design, Development, Coloring, being responsible for graphics and production, was all-in-one.
In that period of time, you know, as a Designer, we were obliged to go to the factories and take care of the realisation ourselves.
And I clearly remember the moment it had changed when some bigger corporations came to Holland - that is in my case, as I work in Amsterdam - there was a moment when I had a talk with a large international company and they asked me „Ok, you have to make a choice. It’s either design or either development.“ And I was like „What do you mean? Design and Development is one and the same." But in this company, Designer's were in charge of setting up and designing the collection, but the developers were responsible for the realization of the product. That’s when I decided, I'd rather go into the product development side, because realization for me is more important. Because you can have a beautiful sketch, but then the outcome might not be like you imagined.
So I wanted to be as close as possible to the design. However, when I look at some of people that I worked with in the past who have been in my team of developers, you know, most of them they are younger and they didn’t have any design experience, but they’re extremely good developers. I think if you have a combination of understanding creativity, even though it’s not your own design, and understanding the DNA of the company and the creativity of the Designer, being able to translate it into a construction so that you don’t change the styles too much - that’s the most important asset you can have as a developer.


If you have a combination of understanding creativity, even though it’s not your own design, and understanding the DNA of the company and the creativity of the Designer, being able to translate it into a construction so that you don’t change the styles too much - that’s the most important asset you can have as a developer.

Hermin Uzer

SJ: That's incredible! I need to admit that I’ve actually never really distinguished between Design and Product Develoment.

HU: Honestly, I think you shouldn’t. Over the last 25 years, it’s how the development went. I am happy to see that nowadays, especially with the upcoming of digital design, the new master studies at fashion schools turn their focus on creating styles digitally. I see the fusion of Design and Development come back more and more. Because those students are obliged to really understand construction, pattern making, fabrics, applications and everything, whereas there was a time when design was only focused on creativity. Realization was important, but not in depth. I see that coming back in the newer generations.

SJ: Yeah sure, it is really important that the Designer's have an understanding of the overall process.

Yes! It is! In my opinion, designers and developers do have different strengths, but they should actually know exactly the same. It’s like your left and right arm. And without one the other would not function.

SJ: Let's finish with a personal insight. What is your favorite part of being a product developer?

HU: It’s being in touch with the product. Even though it’s something that I don’t design, it is designed in my brand, so it’s also something from me. Just having the challenge to realize that design and enable the adaption from all sides, from quality, execution, targets and design integrity. That’s - it’s always nice! It becomes your little baby. You’re responsible from Step B onwards - but even without Step A, it’s your little baby.



Editor's Note: Napapijiri is part of VF, the the global company behind around 30 of the world’s leading sports, outdoor and lifestyle brands.
With a finnish name, the norwegian flag as a logo and found in Italy, Napapijri represents a global mindset through the intersection of boundaries, culture, nature and art. The brand portfolio includes Menswear, Womenswear and Childrenswear.

Meet Alicia Pinckney: Designer at Timberland

Timberland Designer Alicia Pinckney

Passionate, creative and a very contagious smile: That's Alicia Pinckney. The Men's Apparel Designer of Timberland heritage talked to us about her career, what inspires her and the possibilities for sustainable solutions of sports fashion design.

Sportyjob: I've seen you had your 2 years anniversary these days. Congratulations!

Alicia Pinckney: [laughs] Thank you!

SJ: So, how have your last two years at Timberland been?

AP: I feel like these last two years have gone by so quickly! I've joined the team together with a bunch of new people, so in a sense, we kind of build the brand up again with a completely new team. With that in mind, there has been a lot of evolution, a lot of structure changes, just a lot of things happening in these last two years. So I think that’s what made it go by really fast! I’ve just been keeping up with everything that has been going on. I like fast pace and that’s what Timberland has been. It’s always been open for change and constantly evolving to something new. So it has been a very interesting time in my two years here, meeting different people, traveling to different places around the world.

SJ: Is it something that sparks your creativity, going so fast pace?

AP: I definitely think it is! Because for me, if I feel like I am stagnated or anything isn’t happening, my creativity can lie dormant. But if you have something that is stimulating you, like going to new places, being exposed to new cultures, that keeps the creativity and juices flowing. Whenever we design for a new season, we are always traveling - I can say that it definitely helps with the creativity.


If I feel like I am stagnated or anything isn’t happening, my creativity can lie dormant. But if you have something that is stimulating you, like going to new places, being exposed to new cultures, that keeps the creativity and juices flowing

Alicia Pinckney

SJ: Let's go back two years. Do you remember your first product that came to store?

AP: Yeah, actually! When I first joined the team in July 2017, I immediately started working on a collaboration project with Christopher Raeburn. Then, around June 2018, it was presented at the London Fashion Week. It was our first time having a Timberland product on a runway during fashion week. So that was something! I was like: "Wow, I just started and I already see my stuff!". Normally, when you start at a company, it takes a while to actually see your designs in action, because of the timelines we are working on.
Another few months later I saw it in our Flagship Store in London in Regent Street, which was very cool and very exciting! And when I went back home to America, I went into the New York store and I saw that we had a popup store based on showing this product, because this project was so significant for sustainability. You see, Christopher Raeburn is all about reuse, reduce, recycle and circular design. And our product was basically that. We made sure that all of our cotton that we used was organic, any part that is possible can be recycled. It was basically like a very closed circular collection. The intent was reducing waste and making use of waste, everything we used from very sustainable resources.

SJ: Talking about sustainability. Timberland has been doing a lot to reduce the carbon foot print of the fashion industry. One of their goals is to reuse 100% recycled materials until 2020. What is your role in reaching these goals?

AP: We’ve been training a lot on circular design. I am not sure if you’re familiar with that. You look at design in general, normally it’s very linear, we pick up a resource, we use it and then it’s wasted. And no one does anything with the waste. But the concept of circular design does. You start with the resources, make fabric from it which - after the consumer uses it - can be remade into something else and can go back to the beginning loop of the resources. It can be regenerated for something else. So, we should eliminate our carbon foot print, not have so much waste. A lot of our decision making also depends on: ok it can be repaired, so the customer doesn’t have to throw it away. Which is a big factor. Or we also can choose things that are already recycled, for example, companies using recycled nets from the ocean. It’s about doing the research, to take waste and making something out of it.  So it’s a lot of thinking what we’re doing and honestly, out of all the big companies that I’ve worked for, Timberland is the most aware in the details to help reduce our carbon footprint.

SJ: How does sustainability influence your designs?

AP: I feel that it influences my way of designing in the way that when people think of me as a designer or like when you think of the idea of any designer, you automatically think of fashion, trends, that’s it. But for me, I think, having this whole topic of sustainability in the forefront of my mind, I am not just chasing after fashion. I am chasing after what makes a change for the world. I know it sounds a bit cliché, but if you only stay relevant with what’s happening in trends, honestly, a lot of trends aren’t that great for the environment. So, it really changes my way of designing, because I am not really trend and fashion focused, I am more purpose and function focused.


I am not just chasing after fashion. I am chasing after what makes a change for the world

Alicia Pinckney

SJ: So, you don’t only have an impact on Timberland's design, but it also has one on you!

AP: Yeah, I can definitely agree with that. It feels like it gives you a sense of purpose. Because I feel that when you’re designing with not having anything in mind other than creating a garment that someone looks nice in, you kind of feel - I don’t know about anyone else, but for me - I kind of feel empty. Because this is what I am contributing to the world, that is my purpose.
When you look at the DNA of Timberland and the fact that we’re trying to do good for the world, while we also do this creative part of designing, you can feel a bit a balance of your fulfillment. Because you’re doing creative stuff, but you’re also doing something that is going to actually make a difference. Instead of just filtering the world or just oversaturating the world with garments, garments, garments, we’re trying to make a difference. Because of course, garments will always be a part of our life here, but if you can do it in a way you’re not killing the world, you feel a sense of purpose, of personal purpose.

SJ: Finding this fulfillment as an employee must be extraordinary for you, because before you were freelancing, you had your own brand GLEON 1938. It probably must have been a big change when switching from your own products to representing a brand. How is it different when working for a brand than doing your own products?

AP: I think it’s completely different as you are working collaboratively. Everything is build off of a team, from the initial ideation of the direction for the season to working with different partners to help to complete the collection. Whereas when I was working on my brand, I did everything on my own. I cut and sewed, and created my own patterns. I was connecting with different creatives, from my photographers to models and event creators for whenever I did fashion shows. At Timberland, we're involving another community of manpower to help get the brand globally reached.
But what I definitely think is the difference when you’re working for a brand is, not only do you have the financial support, but you can actually make a global statement when it comes to being sustainable.
But I really think you can take your ideas and your mindset from working  on your personal brand and bring the two at a larger scale when you’re working collaboratively with other designers. You can really see how it can become something big.

SJ: Would you say your old designs have become a part of your new work as well?

AP: I can definitely say that. For me, I have always been into function, as I mentioned before. Growing up, I have always been into maths and science. I was really into engineering throughout high school. And when I decided to pursue fashion design, it was another way to let out my creative side. So when I was designing personally for my brand,  I did a lot of things that required a lot of function. So, for me, I used that same way of thinking coming from Timberland. Whenever we design something, we always design with a purpose. Whenever we present something, we can’t just say „Oh I did this pocket, because it looks nice“. We have to have a true reason why we did it. Especially, for me working off of the heritage of Timberland, we defined our customer and our customer loves function. Our customer goes outside a lot. so, you know we need to be able to equip them with anything they'll need, whether it’s multiple pockets or a reversibility or whatever. Every detail that he can use when he’s outside. so for me, I was able to translate my functional way of thinking to Timberland.

SJ: Looking back, what is your favorite part of being a fashion designer?

AP: I have so many favorite parts of being a fashion designer  [laughs]. First, I would say the traveling is one of my favorite parts, because I love to travel and I am really really excited and grateful to have a job that allows me to travel. Seeing different cultures, seeing different things that help inform your collections.
The second thing I can say is when you actually get the garment, because you spend so much time sketching in 2D or sketching on the computer and then when you actually receive the garment that feeling to see it is just like „wow amazing!“. To see it transform from paper to an actual product is a very... it’s kind of like a confirmation.

SJ: Hearing this, you’re very passionate about your job. Which is great! You’d probably recommend becoming a designer.

AP: Yeah, I do!

SJ: If you would have to advice someone who wants to become a designer, which advice would you give him or her on how to achieve this career?

AP: I would definitely say, to surround yourself with people who you aspire to be. Getting to know other people that are designers. To ask questions. That way you can, you know, get advice from them. Also, be open to learn on your own. Do a lot of research. Like for me, I have always done a lot of research, I learned how to sew when I was 12. That was kind of a self-taught process. So when you’re open to researching, problem solving, anything like that that can really help you and boost you to becoming a designer.

Self-Taught Designer: All garments designed, cut and sewn by Alicia Pinckney for Vogue Italia's Call for Talents IV where she scored a scholarship for the Domus Academy's Master Fashion Design - © Vogue Italia

SJ: Did you already know that you want to be a designer when you were 12?

AP: Yes!!! I know, it’s so crazy. As i mentioned before I was really smart in school, like i was the valedictorian and the president of my class. I was really smart, I was like the mathlete nerd kind of girl. But at the same time, my family is filled with a lot of creativity. My mother works a lot with wood and my grandfather used to build with wood, too, he was a carpenter and a painter. And for me, just being surrounded by that as a kid was always something I also wanted to do. So I used to sketch all the time! I got my first sewing machine when I was 12. And from there, I used to make a lot of things, I made my prom dresses when I was in high school. So for me this was always a part of who I was, I’ve always known I wanted to be a designer since I was very young. And i just took the path to follow to get me to where I am now.

Innovation, Interaction, Immersion: The future of retail in Salomon’s concept stores

While the online market is growing and growing, stationary stores often need to fight to stay alive. The new concept stores of Salomon, however, are not only survivors, but evolutionary winners. Instead of relying on pure Sales, the Concept Store focuses on creating a digital play and home zone for customers and employees alike, merging the boundaries between online and offline shopping.

Their next store in Paris will open in only a couple of weeks, bringing the new concept to France. For this, Salomon is hiring 5 Sales Associates, a position which involves more than the name gives away.

Gather, share, progress, play, live: The digitized store

Salomon refreshes retail with an innovative step: Their stores are fully digitized, seamlessly connecting online and offline. Hard selling takes a big step back and opens the stage for an emotional in-store encountering instead. It’s a destination to get informed, feel and become a part of a community - gather, share, progress, play, live.
With sales being secondary, customers can inform themselves in details about their sport’s gear. Information they’d normally gather online are available on digital screens, further deepened by the professional knowledge of the schooled sales associates - the advantages of both channels combined. With big TV screens playing running, hiking and winter sports clips, boot fitting areas and product showcases, store visitors and sales consultants have the chance to connect and interact. All the time immersed in the french alps.

Become one of 5 Salomon Sales Associates in Paris

With the upcoming store opening in Paris, Salomon is offering a big opportunity to join their brand and explore the new concept: „We are building a strong team with different profiles and expertise (VM, MKG, Digital, Operations, Footwear). We are currently recruiting 5 sales associates willing to jump into this exiting project.” (Michael, Store Manager) Each of the positions itself is unique: As the store is separated into different sport’s destinations, every future talent is trained in a different field. Your passion evolves your career path in either (trail) running, outdoor or winter sports. This passion is also what expands the limits of your position to more than a job: You’ll be an Ambassador of the sports and Salomon’s maxim „Time to play“.  It’s your connection to a sports loving community, to become a part of and interact with.
“We’re looking to attract the passionate outdoor-oriented people who use our products in the mountains and their outdoor pursuits at their home ground. Also, this location draws many tourists annually. We’re aiming to attract these consumers as well – in some cases they will have the first contact with the brand through this flagship store.” (Michael, Store Manager)
Are you passionate to join the Salomon Concept Store? Find the full job description with the possibility to apply here: Conseillers de vente (H/F) chez Salomon 

All about Salomon

The brand is one of the world’s leading creators of mountain gear. Honoring their roots, the headquarter is located in Annecy, in the French Alps, where they were founded in 1947 by Francois Salomon. Being the inventor of the modern ski binding, up until day Salomon is forerunner in the innovation of winter sports products. Since 2005, Salomon is a part of the finnish sporting goods group Amer Sports which is a sporting goods company with internationally recognised brands including Salomon, Wilson, Atomic, Arc’teryx, Mavic, Suunto and Precor. The company’s technically-advanced sports equipment, footwear and apparel improve performance and increase the enjoyment of sports and outdoor activities Selling their products through own concept stores, factory outlets and online shops , their sporting goods are available in 34 countries. 2016 Amer Sports employed more than 8.500 people throughout the whole world, about 3.200 of them in Europe.