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Street Style - Paris Fashion Week - Haute Couture Spring Summer : Day Two

Source: Edward Berthelot / Getty

Fashion discounts for DEI? Anyone?

Sportswear and celebrity favorite outdoor brand The North Face is offering customers a 20 percent discount for taking an online course on race. Though the incentive is currently only available for customers in the U.K., the offering has already caused a stir in the U.S.

To some, the mere thought of a financial discount on clothes in exchange for promoting social change is unsettling. That fact, coupled with the brand’s history within streetwear and hip-hop culture, makes the action an interesting initiative to explore.

RELATED: Cardi B Brings NYC Swag To The Atlanta Hawks Game In A North Face X Gucci Puffer Coat

What are people talking about – what is racial equity?

Westfield London Shopping centre, The North Face store sign

Source: Peter Dazeley / Getty

So, HB visited The North Face site, “Allyship in the Outdoors,” to see what it actually says. The course opens with a message from the company. The site copy shares the company’s published perspective on racial equity, allyship, and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). “At The North Face, we believe in the power of exploration,” says the site. “As individuals, professionals, and companies who share a love for the outdoors and exploration, we also have a responsibility to support spaces where everyone feels like they belong.”

What follows is a voluntary one-hour four-model course aimed at raising awareness. The site promises “a deeper understanding of the unique challenges that people of colour face when accessing the outdoors.” The course’s content reflects The North Face’s perspective on race in Europe.

The North Face Is Offering UK Customers A Discount For Taking A 'Race Course' - And Not Everyone Is Happy About It

Source: Courtesy of Lauren Williams (@dcfashionblogger) / Lauren E. Williams

Since “Allyship in the Outdoors” launched, reactions have been mixed. According to Black Enterpriseanti-DEI activists have reportedly deemed the course racist, a waste of time, and irrelevant. The Grio reports some Black influencers and TikTokers say the course may be well intended but does not go far enough for racial equity. 

Critics also point out that the course’s main audience—the majority—does not need the perceived cost benefit of the discount. But it is important to note that this reported discount is not the only type that the brand offers. According to its website, consumers can enjoy coupons as students, first responders, and military members.

The North Face’s contributions to hip-hop culture and racial equity.

Street Style - Paris Fashion Week - Womenswear Fall Winter 2023 2024 : Day Seven

Source: Daniel Zuchnik / Getty

The controversial curriculum is not the brand’s first or only initiative to help address disparities and increase interest in the outdoors among people of color. In 2020, The North Face partnered with Lena Waithe for the “Reset Normal” campaign to encourage people of color to reset their “normal” lives through the power of exploration in hopes of progress and discovery.”

The initiative also formed the Explore Fund Council, a global fellowship to bring together “passionate experts across culture, entertainment, academia, and the outdoors to develop ideas and potential scalable solutions to help support access to exploration.” 

RELATED: Lena Waithe Partners With The North Face To Encourage Outdoor Exploration Among Communities Of Color

On top of these recent announcements, The North Face’s website touts formalized efforts to support DEI and communities since 2010. Several organizations of color are listed as partners. From the quantity of programs and initiatives alone, the new course seems to fit into a larger ecosystem of efforts from the brand.

Lena Waite - The The North Face Campaign

Source: The North Face / The North Face

The North Face’s DEI efforts seem appropriate given its position in U.S. pop culture. According to the High Snob Society, the brand’s popularity grew in the 1990s, expanding past those needing hiking and technical gear due to subcultures like hip-hop taking the brand to the next level. In 1993, Method Man rocked The North Face’s Tech Steep jacket in a music video. Several other artists and icons followed suit as the puffy jacket became the perfect complement to kicks and butter Timberland boots.

Will this do any good? Or simply drive The North Face sales?

As with all issues around race, race relations, and equality worldwide, there is no one way to address a problem. We all play a role in spurring change.

While we’re still deciding how we feel about a clothing discount for just one hour of racial discourse, we know that, at the very least, having conversations is essential.

And 20 percent off your next purchase is the icing on the cake.

RELATED: Walmart Accused Of Racism For Locking Black Haircare Products Behind Glass

The North Face Is Offering Customers A 20% Discount For Taking A ‘Race Course’ – And Not Everyone Is Happy About It  was originally published on