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Increasing diversity and inclusivity within the realm of outdoor recreation requires a multifaceted approach—supporting outdoor-focused BIPOC organizations and outdoor athletes are two direct ways to go about it, and REI thinks that reexamining its approach to gear can be another. Putting this to the test, the iconic Seattle retailer has collaborated with Outdoor Afro, a nonprofit that celebrates Black connections and leadership in nature to release an all-new hike capsule that will be the first drop in the multi-launch collection.
Avaialble today, the REI x Outdoor Afro collaboration currently includes 22 pieces of apparel and gear, including fleece, jackets, pants, packs, and more.
Outdoor Afro CEO and Founder Rue Mapp has always had one mission: to tell a new story about the outdoors and inspire and celebrate Black joy in nature. With the new collection, Mapp and REI wanted to understand and solve the unmet needs of the Black community when it came to outdoor experiences. Equipment and apparel have always been an issue for Black folks, which is why the Outdoor Afro x REI collab is so significant.
The collection incorporates inclusive design principles, using lightweight, stretchy, and breathable materials that support bigger, curvier bodies. You can look forward to color schemes reminiscent of rich African textiles like teals, burnt yellows, and oranges that embrace Black and brown skin. Keeping bigger hair in mind, the designers even made the hoods larger on the collection's fleece pullovers and jackets.
Rather than creating gear for expeditions, REI and Outdoor Afro have made apparel that blends street style and outdoor performance. The collection can transition from a breezy day on a Brooklyn stoop listening to Biggie's "Style and Grace" to a backpacking trail in Sequoia National Park where the distant hammering of a woodpecker is the only sound around.
Isabelle Portilla, REI's divisional vice president of product strategy, whose focus also includes inclusive design and racial equity, is known for leading collaborations with companies that are in keeping with REI's mission, such as the retailer's recent collaborations with West Elm. The venture with Outdoor Afro was no different; in a press release, Portilla said, "Sharing the balance of power has been one of the most inspiring parts of this work."
The first collection of gear from REI x Outdoor Afro includes fleeces, technical tees and polos, jackets, hiking pants, and shorts along with a daypack, fanny pack, and hiking boots. Prices range from $7 to $179, ensuring that expense isn't a limiting barrier, either.