The North Face brand was established in 1968 in San Francisco, California, when Douglas Tompkins and Dick "Hap" Klopp created an equipment retail store that eventually acquired the current name "The North Face". This name was chosen because the north face of a mountain in the northern hemisphere is generally the most difficult face to climb. By the 1980s, skiwear was added to the line of products, and eventually camping equipment was added as well. The North Face is now a wholly owned subsidiary of the VF Corporation.
Today, The North Face is based in San Leandro, California, near its corporate sibling, JanSport. JanSport is the world's largest backpack maker, and together, JanSport and The North Face manufacture nearly half of all small backpacks sold in the United States.
The North Face's logo consists of a slightly skewed quarter-circle with two lines running within it. This image is an interpretation of Half Dome, a rock formation in Yosemite National Park, viewed from the west, with the sheer north (or northwest) face of Half Dome to the left.
The North Face maintains strong links with the outdoor community through its sponsored athlete program. Athletes such as Lizzy Hawker who recently won the Ultra Trail Tour du Mont Blanc have benefited greatly from the programme.
In addition to selling through outdoor retailers, The North Face operates 34 retail locations in the United States (as of June, 2009), and additional retail locations can be found worldwide.
Rise in popularity, counterfeiting, and theft
In the late 1990s and early 2000s with the rise of wilderness chic, The North Face became a well-known brand and its popularity, especially among youth and college students, increased substantially. An upper-end The North Face winter jacket currently costs about $500 USD. Due to the high demand for and the high prices of these products, a market developed for counterfeit (illegally replicated) The North Face goods. Sold on eBay or in other unregulated venues, counterfeits can usually be detected by their misplacement of logos and obvious inferiority of craftsmanship. In addition to this, many counterfeit The North Face products are not made of Gore-Tex or HyVent, despite being so marked.
For the same reasons that The North Face products are counterfeited, they are also prime targets for theft. In early 2005, a group of teenagers from Washington D.C. were arrested on charges including the armed robbery of specifically The North Face jackets from randomly picked students on the street. Allegedly, the thieves would then resell the products for a substantially decreased price.
The massive counterfeiting has prompted the creation of a website with information for consumers intending to purchase North Face items online in 2004. In August 2007, Businessweek interviewed the owner and featured the site in one of their articles.