Alder Apparel Launches Lifestyle Collection With Roots

TORONTO — Just who belongs in the great outdoors?

Answering that question and redefining what it means for women of all sizes to be fashionably and functionally “outdoorsy” has been Alder Apparel’s mission since the maker of outdoor recreation apparel was launched in Toronto in 2020.

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“From Day One, we felt that this was a fashion conversation well worth having,” said Mikayla Wujec, who cofounded the brand with fashion marketer and childhood friend Naomi Blackman.

United by their frustration with the outdoor clothing options then available to female consumers, this career pivot for the fledgling fashion entrepreneurs came about thanks to a flash of inspiration Wujec experienced while hiking in New Zealand in 2017.

“I remember hiking and thinking back to all the flights that I had boarded over the years and all the ugly, ill-fitting, style-less outdoor wear I had to put up with to do my job. I knew my other colleagues felt the same way,” said Wujec, who studied geography and biology at Concordia University before landing research funding from the National Geographic Explorers program to go on a scientific expedition to the Solomon Islands.

Upon her return Wujec moved to Toronto in 2015, where she began freelancing as a nature photographer and videographer. But Wujec’s dissatisfaction with the outdoor clothing industry continued to mount.

“The truth is most conventional outdoor brands created women’s apparel using the ‘Shrink and Pink’ design process, which based women’s designs on slight variations of men’s designs. And somehow these products were always colored pink. That’s bananas,” Wujec said.

Conventional brands also designed seemed to design primarily for thin people who were hard-core athletes.

None of this addressed “the issues women face as their bodies grow and change,” said Wujec, who was determined to create fashionable, functional, outdoor wear that was size-inclusive, sustainable, community-informed in its design and focused on women having fun.

Blackman and Wujec were determined their brand lead the industry in these ways as well as in ethical production and diversity.

“Traditionally the outdoors industry has been overwhelmingly white. We wanted to welcome different ethnicities, as well as women of walks of life into the outdoor journey,” Blackman told WWD.

To that end, Blackman and Wujec surveyed 1,000 women on Reddit forums and Facebook groups, asking them what they wanted — and did not want — in their outdoor clothing. They learned that 92 percent of respondents could not find pants that fit properly. That discovery lead to the creation of Alder Apparel’s Open Air Pant, a customer favorite which features a high-rise waist and slim fit that looks equally as good worn on a hike or a trip to the mall.

“Our Open Air Pant is our bestseller because it fits every body shape. That is very unusual in the outdoor apparel world,” said Blackman, who along with Wujec launched a Kickstarter campaign in September 2019 to secure $20,000 to launch their business. When the campaign was over, they had reached $191,000.

Alder Apparel’s lineup includes shorts, tank tops, fleece jackets, and a newly launched swimwear line made of Econyl yarn, an eco-friendly pick made from recycled nylon. Ranging in size from XS to 6X, “to our knowledge this is the largest size range of any outdoor brand that we know of in North America,” Wujec said.

All this captured the interest of Canadian apparel brand Roots, which was impressed by the female-led company’s personal and direct relationship with their consumer.

“From Roots’ perspective community is important to us. When we see young brands that align with our values we pay attention,” said Karuna Scheinfeld, chief product officer at Roots. “Sometimes it’s mentorship. Sometimes we hire them. But sharing those similar core values inspired us to work with this young brand.”

On Thursday, the two companies will launch their first collaboration, a capsule collection that combines Alder Apparel’s expertise in inclusive design and sustainability with Roots’ “rich heritage and iconic style.”

The collection features nine apparel pieces and three leather picks. They include a dress, short, cargo pant, crew top, cropped tank, legging and skort.

“There is a lot of innovation here to address the right cut, seams and the fit for every body type. We used recycled, high-quality materials. We dug deep into the pattern making so we could create the perfect fit and built tech performance into the collection,” Scheinfeld said. “But this is luxury lifestyle and is a first in the premium outdoor space.”

Available online at Alder Apparel and Roots, the collection can also be found in Roots stores in Los Angeles and Taiwan.

“Working with Roots was organic for us and what we’ve created is versatile, fresh, playful, and the prints are beautiful,” said Blackman, whose company is now prepping to launch a new collection of boots with Danier in the fall of 2024, and run events, community hikes, pop-ups and more in Toronto, Vancouver and Seattle between now and 2024.

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