Sustainable outdoor apparel brand Tentree is selective about its collaborations, according to CEO and founder Derrick Emsley. He’s wary of brands who want to appear sustainable through partnerships without having done the work.
But the brand’s latest collaboration with National Geographic was a perfect match.
“There’s always a bit of cautious hesitation with collaborations in sustainable brand spaces,” Emsley said. “Collaborations do well when it’s authentic to the direction of the business. I’m sure there are a lot of brands who would love to slap National Geographic on their product to get some goodwill from that.”
Launched on Thursday, Tentree collaborated with National Geographic for a collection of loungewear featuring the iconic gold border of National Geographic’s print magazine as well as prints of some classic Nat Geo photography of trees. Emsley said the team was given access to a huge vault of National Geographic photography to turn into designs. National Geographic images of trees on the collection are a reference to Tentree’s business model of planting ten trees for every product sold.
The collection includes sweatpants, hoodies and T-shirts, ranging from $20 to $68, and will be sold online, at Tentree’s online store and at select retailers like Urban Outfitters and Tillys.
Emsley said that, for sustainable brands, the most important part of marketing is education.
“There’s a David Attenborough quote I love: ‘No one will protect what they don’t care about. No one will care about what they have never experienced,’” Emsley said. “The reason we make outdoor clothes is so that you get out in nature, fall in love with nature and want to protect nature. National Geographic does the same thing with its amazing photography and content.”
The last collaboration the brand did was in December 2020 with Dr. Seuss for a collection focused on the character of the Lorax. National Geographic has dabbled in fashion collaborations before, working with brands like Lacoste and Vans in the last year. A representative from National Geographic was not available for comment on this story.
The Nat Geo x Tentree collaboration won’t be promoted on National Geographic’s highly popular Instagram (177 million followers), which it preserves purely for images from its photographers. But, the collection will be heavily featured on Tentree’s own Instagram account, which has more than two million followers.
Vancouver-based Tentree has been growing at a rate of about 40% to 50% per year since launching in 2012, Emsley said. This year, they expect to plant around 20 million trees for 2 million units sold, and earn between $50 million and $100 million in revenue. For 2022, the hope is to get that number to around 30 million trees.
“Choosing partners that are perceived to be experts in their space can reinforce the trust of existing consumers and win over those on the fence,” said Sophie Toporoff, head of strategic partnerships at marketing agency Klay Media. “That’s why a partnership with a legacy publication like National Geographic is huge for a relatively young organization like Tentree. This collaboration introduces Tentree to a massive new group of potential customers in National Geographic’s global audience while National Geographic’s stamp approval adds an additional layer of validity to brand.”