Waterproof membranes, taped seams, sealed zippers, shell fabrics, creating outdoor gear is no easy feat. and it's something that Keita Ikeuchi and Mihoko Mori know only too well.
"Different environments have a significant impact on the materials and cuts you choose. Rain, wind, sweat, walking on dirt with unstable surfaces all need to be considered to make a garment safe and comfortable," the founders of Japanese outdoor label and wander told us over email.
With everything that must be taken into consideration to create a jacket or pair of pants suitable to trek through the mountains, for most labels, aesthetics is understandably more of an afterthought. However, and wander is not one of those labels.
Having met while working at ISSEY MIYAKE, the duo take their experience in high fashion into the function-obsessed realm of outdoor gear. Sitting in the middle of both worlds, and wander blends them without compromising.
The idea for the brand came after the duo weren't able to find outdoor gear they actually wanted to wear, and with each collection, the brand finds a new solution to that problem.
Leaving ISSEY MIYAKE to launch the brand in 2011, its founders explained that growing up in a time of such excess made them reevaluate their relationship with nature. "This led us to become more nature-conscious, and to an obsession with the outdoors," the duo tells us. "We knew from the time we launched that many people, not just us, would start thinking that way."
Their prediction over ten years ago has rung true and recent years have seen the rise of technical styles in fashion, there's a newfound appreciation for the innovative fabrics and technical designs that hikers have been utilizing for years. This has led to collaborations such as Supreme x The North Face Summit Series or Arcteryx x Jil Sander, fashion might be starting to convert to Keita and Mihoko's way of thinking.
But for and wander its collections reach far beyond a fleeting craze for waterproof fabrics, it's about making outdoor clothing desirable to encourage more people to actually get out into nature — not only wear them when walking around your block.
One way in which it does that is through the "and wander HIKING CLUB," a group they have formed to explore hiking trails and hopefully convert more people to their nature-obsessed way of life. However, the duo can't resist but also use the club as a real-life test to see how their designs actually work in people's lives.
Research and development are central to the brand's process. It tests all of its items in the field, taking them to the mountains in order to find out where an item can be further improved and to see where there is space for new designs.
By constantly testing and experimenting with its designs, no item is ever "finished" in the traditional sense. The label is in a consistent game of one-upmanship with itself, trying to find the small adjustments that will make an item more practical. Collections by the brand will see the same items often repeated and updated, each time with small tweaks.
Fashion seasons speak to the industry's relentless need for newness and trends, but that isn't the focus of this working method. The duo says that "when we start a new adventure, clothing and gear are created around it." This mindset means all its new creations are the result of necessary innovation, allowing it to participate in the fashion system on its own terms.
For its latest collection, Spring/Summer 2022, that has meant starting a line of camping wear and gear that uses using flame-retardant materials to prevent holes from campfire sparks. Together with a manufacturer called GRIP SWANY, the brand has outfitted everything you could need for a camping trip, from tarps and fire pits to trousers and gloves, something it plans to continue into the future "with a view to creating the atmosphere of a camping site."
These arrive alongside new versions of the outdoor jackets, pants, and bags that the label has built its reputation on. Featuring its reflective triangle logo, which if you have an Instagram feed anything like mine is increasingly prevalent in fit-pics, these form the backbone of any collection by the brand.
Another thing that is obligatory with any and wander collection is a lookbook shot where the clothes belong: in a breathtaking remote location. A reminder of what the brand is founded around, no matter how much we incorporate it into our metropolitan dress, getting you to experience those locations is at the core of everything Keita and Mihoko do: "We want and wander to be a brand that provides an opportunity for people to get in touch with nature and hiking in the mountains."