Photo Credit: Joshua Kissi

Outdoor Afro Inc. and REI Co-op Debut Co-created Collection to Inspire and Celebrate Black Joy in Nature

Technical hike apparel line is first of a multi-year collaboration, provides transitional comfort and fashion

Sep 13, 2022

Outdoor Afro Inc. and REI Co-op have launched a co-created hike collection to help solve unmet needs in outdoor apparel and celebrate Black joy in nature. A new chapter for national not-for-profit Outdoor Afro Founder and CEO Rue Mapp, Outdoor Afro Inc. is the corporate partner of her 13-year organization and the co-op's inspiration for this innovative collection.

“Nature has been, and will continue to be, a place where Black people seek connection and respite,” said Rue Mapp, founder and CEO of Outdoor Afro. “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. REI was the right partner to listen deeply and help us create a collection that would start to meet those needs. We are thrilled to launch this inspirational campaign, share this hike collection, and continue to elevate Black joy outdoors.” 
Outdoor Afro Inc. is a new venture for Mapp that celebrates and inspires Black community connections to the outdoors through relevant product design, manufacturing, sales, and outdoor experiences. For more than a decade, her not-for-profit organization and REI have built a relationship to address the lack of Black representation in the outdoors. That relationship led to this new collaboration. 

“Our long-time relationship with Outdoor Afro provided a natural platform to help us better understand what the outdoors means to the Black community. This partnership allowed us to authentically identify and address barriers to create more inclusive design solutions that will connect more people to the power of the outdoors,” said Isabelle Portilla, divisional vice president of product strategy and design for REI Co-op brands. “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.”

For the first drop in the multi-launch collection, Outdoor Afro Inc. and REI worked closely with members of the Black community to understand their outdoor product needs and begin developing a collection to inspire and ignite more Black joy in nature. The 22-piece hike collection includes apparel and accessories that bring more inclusive design to the forefront. Customers will find new fit options that consider a wider range of body types, shapes, and sizes. The collection uses lightweight and stretch materials that promote breathability and lead to easy wear and care. New colors and graphics embrace a desire for personal expression.

The Outdoor Afro Inc. x REI Co-op Hike Collection is now available for purchase at REI stores and REI.com. Apparel and accessory prices range from $40 to $179 and $7 to $15, respectively.

“Although this collection is designed for the Black community, it also solves universal needs. We're creating a better outdoor product for everyone,” adds Rue Mapp. 
To support the collection launch, Outdoor Afro Inc. and REI will debut a new campaign, “We Are Nature.” The co-op partnered with Outdoor Afro Inc. to consider representation both in front of and behind the camera. Campaign photography was captured by Joshua Kissi and Fela Raymond from TONL, a creative company seeking to transform the idea of stock photography with diverse representation. Video content was created with Nate the Director from Invisible Collective and Maya Table from Curator. On-camera talent is a mix of Outdoor Afro leaders, REI partners and models.

About Outdoor Afro Inc.

The for-profit business celebrates and inspires Black community connections to the outdoors through relevant product design, manufacturing, sales, and outdoor experiences. To learn more, visit outdoorafro.inc and @outdoorafroinc on social. 

About Outdoor Afro

Outdoor Afro is a national not-for-profit organization that celebrates and inspires Black connections and leadership in nature. What started as a kitchen table blog by Founder and CEO Rue Mapp in 2009 has since grown into a cutting-edge nationwide network with 100-plus volunteer leaders in 60 cities with network participation reaching 60,000 people. Outdoor Afro reconnects Black people with the outdoors through outdoor education, recreation, and conservation. Follow Outdoor Afro at outdoorafro.org and on social @outdoorafro today.

About the REI Co-op

REI is a specialty outdoor retailer, headquartered near Seattle. The nation’s largest consumer co-op, REI is a growing community of 21.5 million members who expect and love the best quality gear, inspiring expert classes and trips, and outstanding customer service. REI has 178 locations in 42 states and the District of Columbia. If you can’t visit a store, you can shop at REI.com, REI Outlet or the REI shopping app. REI isn’t just about gear. Adventurers can take the trip of a lifetime with REI’s active adventure travel company that runs more than 100 itineraries across the country. In many communities where REI has a presence, professionally trained instructors share their expertise by hosting beginner-to advanced-level classes and workshops about a wide range of activities. To build on the infrastructure that makes life outside possible, REI invests millions annually in hundreds of local and national nonprofits that create access to—and steward—the outdoor places that inspire us all.