#NEVERIDLE JOURNAL   //   Staff Picks

Meet This Maker: Wild Rye

The “shrink it and pink it” strategy hasn’t worked for decades, but that hasn’t stopped companies from trying. This outdated response to designing clothing and gear for women has been tried in industries ranging from auto to sports, and most notably, the outdoor gear industry.

Thankfully though, companies and advertisers are starting to wake up to the needs of female customers, and the model is changing rapidly with thoughtful designs and colors ranging far from the multiple shades of pink.

One of the companies leading the way is Wild Rye, a technical outdoor apparel brand that focuses on women’s mountain biking and snow soft goods. The founders, Katy Hover-Smoot and Cassie Abel, both come from the outdoor-lifestyle industry, and previously worked for Specialized Bicycle Components and Smith Optics, respectively. The two quickly connected over their shared love of the outdoors and their shared frustration with women’s apparel offerings.

“We found that most options either didn’t fit right or didn’t perform,” Abel says. “We felt like sausage meat casing in most of our base layer and [mountain biking] clothes. We also felt that both categories lacked a feminine, design-forward look—cut, prints, colors, fit etc. We launched Wild Rye with the mission to bring women beautiful and technical mountain apparel.” 

Combined with their prior experience in the outdoor industry, their years of knowledge as users in and around technical fabrics proved advantageous when they launched in 2016.

“Bigger brands often overlook the styling that goes into their layering pieces and the women’s MTB market has been a mishmash of hits and misses for years,” Hover-Smoot says. “We were core users and wanted to make an impact.” 

Their first year of business came with it’s fair share of learning curves and challenges. The duo spent over 12 months sourcing fabrics, studying color choices and ensuring all the product features worked seamlessly together.

“Seeing our garments come to life was like Christmas morning times one hundred,” Abel says. “Then there was frustration. We had dialed things in so perfectly, or so we thought, but our manufacturers made several major errors on the final production run which we were unaware of until they arrived. Waist bands scaled improperly and elastic leg bands sewn on inside out. We worked tirelessly to fix the errors. Then there was excitement again, seeing the positive feedback by media and consumers. So many emotions.” 

The team realized much was out of their control when it came to the manufacturing process, but bringing a product to the market that they dreamed about more than made up for the snafus.

The wildly positive feedback has also helped. In just two short years, Wild Rye has built a community of women who love and appreciate their technical pieces, which makes them feel celebrated in the outdoors.

Press has taken notice too. The online and print publication Adventure Journal wrote, “Hands-down, [Wild Rye has] the best looking base layers out there, with thoughtful contrast stitching, flattering, feminine cut.” Powder magazine declared it “A fit so good you’ll never look back,” and Outside magazine stated “These shorts have yet to tear or fray. Not only are they durable—they’re insanely comfortable.”

Design and fit are top of mind when it comes to creating products, and after working with a technical designer for two years, the gals now run all of the design work themselves. In addition to fit and function, they’re also equally dedicated to ensuring products are produced with sustainable practices and materials. They strictly work with Bluesign certified fabrics, and all of their factories are certified fair trade and moving towards compliance with the HIGG index.

The outdoor landscape is changing for women, and while there are more women in the outdoors than ever before, apparel and equipment still have a ways to go in terms of fit, trend and functionality. It’s a huge opportunity for Hover-Smoot and Abel, and an exciting time for Wild Rye. Their shared vision for the future involves major growth.

You will see us in additional retail outlets, you’ll see us being worn by friends around town, we’ll have more visibility. But I also think in 5 years we will have an expanded product offering outside of mountain bike and ski.” Hover-Smoot says. “We want to tackle the issue of all soft goods for women who enjoy the outdoors, so we’re absolutely looking at additional product opportunities.” 

Learn more about the mission behind Wild Rye at wild-rye.com and follow along on their journey @wild_rye_

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