The companies’ partnership led to an array of outdoor clothing, bags, and accessories. The focus: ‘celebrating Black joy in nature.’
Outdoor Afro CEO Rue Mapp started 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 solves universal needs. We’re creating a better outdoor product for everyone,” Mapp said in a news release.
By partnering with REI, the corporate arm of Outdoor Afro, a national nonprofit Black leadership organization, sought to do just that. The resulting collection arrives as an array of jackets, pants, bags, tops, shoes, a water bottle, and even a co-branded iron-on patch.
The Outdoor Afro Inc. x REI Co-op Hike Collection debuted at REI Tuesday.
Why Outdoor Afro Chose REI
“Black people have always spent time outside across a variety of activities, but the community has always felt a gap in finding gear that fits, functions well, feels good, and represents their personal style,” Mapp explained in the release.
“REI was the right partner to listen deeply and help us create a collection that would start to meet those needs.”
Outdoor Afro seeks to inspire Black community connections to the outdoors through product design, manufacturing, sales, and outdoor experiences, according to the press release. And REI’s connection with Mapp runs deep.
The companies said Outdoor Afro’s not-for-profit arm has worked with REI to increase Black outdoor representation for over 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 our research, design, and fit work was co-developed and co-led with Outdoor Afro Inc. Robust insights and true collaboration informed the intentionally designed collection that symbolizes connection, community, and an outdoors where all are welcome,” Portilla said.
Outdoor Afro Inc. x REI Co-op Hike Collection
The line’s 22 pieces prioritize wider-fit options for a range of body types and lightweight stretch materials chosen to promote breathability. And colors and graphics “embrace a desire for personal expression,” the companies said.
Headliner products include the hip-length women’s shell jacket, with a durable water-repellent (DWR) coating and claimed 60mph wind resistance. A hood with “hair-conscious” lining and multiple cinch points helps wearers stay comfortable.
Men’s and women’s Flash hiking boots are laden with REI’s proprietary textiles and materials. (And for all us casual sneakerheads out there, they softly invoke the original Air Jordan 11.)
And REI’s Flash 22 daypacks get the Outdoor Afro Inc. treatment, with vivid accent colors and the aforementioned patch.
‘We Are Nature’
The line represents the leading edge of a multi-launch collection. And it landed Tuesday alongside a campaign the companies jointly announced. Called “We Are Nature,” the line’s marketing considers “representation both in front of and behind the camera,” the companies said.
For that reason, Joshua Kissi and Fela Raymond from TONL came on board to shoot photos. Nate Edwards (aka “Nate The Director”) from Invisible Collective and Maya Table from Curator handled video, and talent is a mix of Outdoor Afro leaders, REI partners, and Black and brown models.
“We are thrilled to launch this inspirational campaign, share this hike collection, and continue to elevate Black joy outdoors,” Mapp said.
To check out the Outdoor Afro Inc. x REI Co-op Hike Collection, go to REI’s website.