Thursday, April 28, 2011
The North Face
Still talking about the early days, I had a friend who was going to fashion design school. Who knew higher academia had such an institution fervent on teaching others about something so trivial as clothes. To me clothes had always been something to cover the body and not much else. Much to my wife’s chagrin my shirt often don’t match my pants and I constantly go out on our date night with some worn out Asics 2130’s. So the story goes, I remember vividly having a philosophical discussion about logo’s and branding. “Make it big, make it simple and people will buy it!” (In the background I’m hearing W.P Kinsella “If you build it, they will come!”) She listened to my soapbox rant with slight distain. All the while I was thinking she doesn’t give a F what I think. She went on to having a career with a local very popular clothing company that got swallowed by the leading names in that particular industry, namely: Quicksilver, Dakine, and Roxy just to name a few. Do you see where I’m going with this? Close your eyes for a second and picture the logo of each of the last three names I just mentioned. Simple, big and memorable.
I weep for my lack of creative entrepreneurial moxie all those years ago. Clearly I had the foresight but not the creative gift nor the intestinal fortitude to carry off such a venture. Since my early days I have watched as many a fledgling clothing company falls by the wayside not for lack of quality goods but yet for the marketable eye catching logo or memorable slogan to go with it “Just Do It” (Nike) or “It’s in You” (Gatorade).
And for a time I mocked the successes as they sold their birthright to grab a piece of the pie. I chuckled when I saw a less than an athletic looking man sporting The North Face apparel. I thought to myself, this guy doesn’t look like he could climb a flight of stairs let alone scale a mountain. What does he need the hardcore gear for? As I matured and thought more about it, my thinking changed. Maybe these people will never scale the north face of the Eiger but only dream of it. Or maybe they bought the outdoor gear with the intent of wearing it for its designed features or maybe they bought because they just looked ‘hot’ in it. They wanted to be identified as athletic or outdoorsy. If The North Face could design a garment that appeals to the mainstream, that appeals to those who think ultra runners are nuts but yet gets them out the door and on to the trail. Then we all win! Today from its humble beginnings The North Face manufactures all sorts of clothing, shoes and sponsors a number of cool ultrarunning events as well as a bunch of high profile athletes.
America is getting fatter by the minute. If branding can be identified with athleticism or athletic pursuits and dreams. If it gets people off the couch and around the block if even to show off their new Vibram Five Fingers or Lululemon yoga pants then who am I to scoff at these corporate giants intent on fueling their motivation. Branding becomes the kindling to our spark. If newbie runner feels more like a runner sporting the ‘big ass’ logo on his gear then and it keeps him running then I’m all for ‘big ass’ logos.
Posted by Ultradad at 12:05 PM