With summer travel plans currently at a standstill, there's been a surge in exploring the great outdoors, from nearby hiking trails to weekend-long camping trips. As a result, a quick search on Google Trends shows that inquiries on what exactly to wear for these nature-friendly excursions are on the rise, too.
Luckily, new outdoor apparel Alder has you covered. Co-founder Mikayla Wujec, whose background includes outdoor field work, conservation research expeditions, and a stint with National Geographic's Explorer program, came up with the idea about two years ago out of frustration with the clothing options for women who work outdoors. "I just always wondered why I have to wear leggings or some weird swishy low-rise fuchsia option," she tells NYLON. "I started speaking with some of my other colleagues and it was a really common pain point. We want clothing that was functional, but also fashionable and made sustainably."
Wujec partnered with Naomi Blackman, a marketing and advertising professional who she's known since middle school, and together, they launched a Kickstarter campaign in September 2019 for Alder's first product: the Open Air Pant ($128), which is made from Bluesign-certified modal fabric by an ethical and carbon-neutral manufacturer in Indonesia. The design details, like a high waist, total of seven pockets, a breathable and stretch material, and ranging from sizes XS to 4X, came from crowdsourcing surveys and focus groups conducted by Wujec and Blackman.
"We were all over internet boards, on Reddit, Facebook, emailing our own networks, asking women what they wanted and what was missing from their outdoor wardrobes," recalls Wujec. "And 96% of them said pants, by a landslide. We were totally surprised by the unity of responses."
Alder's Open Air Pant has been on sale for pre-order for the last month and already made just under half a million dollars. Over the past couple of weeks, they've finally shipped out the first 2,000 orders, and the brand is ready to add more to the woman's outdoor wardrobe. Wujec and Blackman are prototyping a raincoat, sweater, and a reversible T-shirt to launch in the near future, and on Thursday, Alder dropped its Be Free Tank Top ($50) and Take A Hike Shorts ($85), just in time for your outdoor adventures this summer.
The tank, which Blackman notes is a slightly cropped silhouette that's long enough to be tucked in, is made with Lyocell, which derives from eucalyptus pulp. The shorts are made out of water-wicking, quick-dry pre-consumer recycled nylon and boast eight (!) pockets, a utility-style buckle belt, and a longer, wide-leg silhouette. "One of the big pieces of feedback we found is that a lot of women had trouble with shorts because they're always either too short or too tight in the legs," says Blackman. "We wanted to really make sure we created a comfortable shape to allow for more room in the legs."
Alder's arrival couldn’t have come at a more fitting time. The crunchy-turned-cool gorpcore aesthetic is still going strong, and outdoor essentials like reusable water bottles, Teva sandals, and Patagonia Baggies are as fashion-forward as they are functional. The way that Outdoor Voices turned athleisure into an ultra-stylish look (for both yoga or running errands), is potentially where Alder could take its outdoor apparel.
"If you think about big outdoor brands, the imagery that comes to mind is somebody climbing a glacier or on a six-day trek, which is all well and good and great, but it's not the reality for how most women experience the outdoors and how outdoor recreation is actually practiced," says Wujec. "We want Alder to open the space for outdoor recreation and to be centered on fun and play and performance. We have National Geographic explorers who climb those glaciers, but we also are speaking to those women who might just want to walk their dog in the park."