Douglas Tompkins capsized while kayaking in a lake in the Patagonia region of Chile and later died of hypothermia, according to The New York Times. He was 72.
Tompkins started the clothing company in San Francisco in the mid-’60s and soon thereafter launched Esprit with his then-wife, Susie. The latter became a multi-billion dollar business, but the former had more staying power.
The North Face’s mantra is “Never Stop Exploring,” and Tompkins embodied it. But as he began spending his fortune on environmental conservation in the 1990s—specifically, buying huge swaths of land in Patagonia and turning them into nature reserves—his expensive fleece and puff jackets became as fashionable in the suburbs and cities as on the mountainside.
And yet, it continued to thrive among all demographics. As the Times reported in 2013:
Usually when a brand moves from urban chic to suburban moms, or from elite athletes to everyday wear, it loses some luster. But the North Face seems to have escaped that fate, and is embraced by the city student, the rural rancher and just about everyone in between.
The North Face’s marketing response: Advertisements that practically beg customers to get out of the city and spend some time outdoors. It’s a safe bet that the campaign motivated few people to go further than Prospect Park—or the nearest North Face retailer.