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Brands creating and fostering communities is nothing new. For as long as there have been consumer brands there have been fans, advocates and enthusiasts of those brands. Take, for example, Rapha. The British cycling brand, which was founded in 2004, successfully launched a membership program in 2015 that now counts over 17,000 members worldwide. This is a fairly typical approach — launch a brand, make a great product, foster a community, capitalize on that community. But Hikerkind, a fledgling outdoor brand based in New York City, took a different approach.
Hikerkind, founded by Chelsea Rizzo and Allison Levy in October of 2020, fostered the community first. Dubbed the ‘Hikerkind NYC Hike Club,” the duo’s twice-monthly women-focused outings to trails close to New York City drew numbers in the 50s over the summer. The “quarantine baby,” as Rizzo refers to it in an interview with Thrillist, had more up its sleeve than simply a hiking club, though.
With backgrounds in the fashion industry, Rizzo and Levy were uniquely positioned to build a brand in tandem with the Hikerkind hiking community. Fueled by wanting to make comfortable, classically styled clothing fit for outdoor pursuits, Hikerkind launched its first collection in summer 2021.
The capsule is anchored by the Midlayer_01 ($183), a Polartec Power Air three-button pullover with a drawstring hem. It’s just the sort of piece that quietly becomes a staple in your wardrobe. Even a glance at the online customer reviews reveals as much: “Fashion meets function”; “Closet must-have, hike or no hike”; “My go-to for hikes and every day”; “Never taking this off.” They go on for three pages.
While the collection is small, it’s rounded out by considered pieces including a Nalgene water bottle ($18), bandana ($20) and a set of two scrap scrunchies ($17). It’s feasible, with a comfortable pair of pants and a solid set of hiking shoes, that Hikerkind’s first collection would provide everything else one would need to get out and hit the trails.
The scrunchie set is where the additional layers and ethos of Hikerkind start to emerge. Along with fostering community and offering comfortable and style-forward outdoor clothing, Hikerkind counts sustainability as a cornerstone of its mission. As with any garment manufacturing, there is scrap material that’s created as a byproduct of cutting and sewing the patterns necessary to make the Midlayer_01. Instead of being content with letting those scraps occupy a landfill somewhere, Rizzo and Levy had the idea of turning the scraps into snap scrunchies. It’s a smart way to cut down on waste and provide a product to its users that offers both utility and style.
Of course, the sustainability mindset doesn’t stop there either. Rizzo and Levy have grand ambitions for Hikerkind and plan to offer a “Resale” section on the brand’s website. As Levy told Field Mag in a June 2021 interview, “It was important to us from the start that we thought about the complete life cycle of the gear we planned to create." The “Resale” page will offer a place for users to repair, reuse and resell their Hikerkind gear. It’s a smart approach and refreshing to see a newly launched brand take this approach right from the off.
Building on the success of its first collection, Hikerkind will launch new products come spring. The spring 2022 capsule is set to include new colorways of the trademark Midlayer_01 as well as an entire trail outfit — and the Hikerkind NYC Hike Club is set to resume in the spring as well.
Five More Reasons to Love Hikerkind:
1. Hikerkind takes sustainability seriously. From the materials the brand selects for its products to the techniques it uses to turn scrap materials into scrunchies, you can feel good about buying Hikerkind products.
2. Hikerkind is a women-led startup that’s mission-driven. It has unique and ambitious goals different from those of other brands in the space.
3. Through its Hikerkind NYC Hike Club, the brand is actively promoting community and diversity in the outdoors. The outdoors are for everyone, and Hikerkind is doing its best to make sure that everyone knows that.
5. New products are dropping soon. Be an early supporter of the brand and keep an eye out for a new drop this spring!