The companies’ partnership has led to a range of outdoor clothing, bags and accessories. The objective: “to celebrate the joy of black people in nature”.
Outdoor Afro CEO Rue Mapp began guiding her company’s influence on REI’s new hiking line with one big goal.
“Although this collection is designed for the black community, it also meets universal needs. We are creating a better outdoor product for everyone,” Mapp said in a press release.
By partnering with REI, the corporate arm of outdoor afro, a national black leadership nonprofit, sought to do just that. The resulting collection comes in the form of a range of jackets, pants, bags, tops, shoes, a water bottle and even a co-branded iron-on patch.
Launch of the Outdoor Afro Inc. x REI Co-op Hike collection at REI Tuesday.
Why Outdoor Afro chose REI
“Black people have always spent time outdoors in a variety of activities, but the community has always felt a gap in finding gear that fits, works well, feels good, and represents their personal style,” Mapp explained in the press release.
“REI was the right partner to listen to us carefully and help us create a collection that would begin to meet those needs.”
Outdoor Afro seeks to inspire the Black community’s connection to the outdoors through the design, manufacture, sale and outdoor experiences of products, according to the press release. And REI’s connection to Mapp runs deep.
The companies said the nonprofit arm of Outdoor Afro has worked with REI to increase outdoor representation of Black people for more than a decade.
Isabelle Portilla, Divisional Vice President of Product Strategy and Design for REI Co-op Brands, described the design process as “truly” collaborative.
“All of our research, design and fit work was co-developed and co-led with Outdoor Afro Inc. Solid ideas and true collaboration informed the intentionally designed collection that symbolizes connection, community and an outdoor where all are welcome,” Portilla said. .
Outdoor Afro Inc. x REI Co-op Hike Collection
The 22-piece line favors wider fit options for a range of body types and lightweight stretch materials chosen to promote breathability. And the colors and graphics “embrace a desire for self-expression,” the companies said.
Headliner products include the women’s shell jacket, which extends over the hips, with a durable water repellent (DWR) coating and claimed wind resistance to 60 mph. A hood with a “hair-conscious” liner and multiple draw points helps wearers stay comfortable.
The Flash hiking boots for men and women are loaded with textiles and materials exclusive to REI. (And for all of us casual sneakerheads, they gently invoke the Original Air Jordan 11.)
And REI’s Flash 22 backpacks get the Outdoor Afro Inc. treatment, complete with bright accent colors and the aforementioned patch.
“We are nature”
The line represents the vanguard of a multi-launch collection. And it landed on Tuesday alongside a campaign jointly announced by the companies. Called “We Are Nature,” the line’s marketing considers “representation both in front of and behind the camera,” the companies said.
For this reason, Joshua Kissi and Fela Raymond from TONL came on board to take pictures. Nate Edwards (aka “Nate The Director”) of Invisible Collective and Mayan painting de Curator handled the video, and the talent is a mix of Outdoor Afro leads, REI partners, and black and brown models.
“We are thrilled to launch this inspirational campaign, share this collection of rides and continue to elevate black joy outdoors,” Mapp said.
To discover the Outdoor Afro Inc. x REI Co-op Hike collection, visit REI’s website.