What is my experience as a woman working in the outdoor industry?
In 2016 I did a small project with respect to how women’s recreation in the outdoors had been evolving. I looked at different ways a brand could speak to, and identify with women. This came about after a design conference I attended in Portland that had a female panel speaking on the issue. So much of the imagery we see as consumers in the outdoor space is of men, but in order for individuals to connect with a brand, one often wants to see themselves represented. This wasn’t a new concept at the time of course, but it was the first time I thought about it as a brand’s responsibility to address.
Since then, I have paid more attention to, and have noticed many changes in how both old and new brands in the outdoor industry include women. I have also been part of a growing group of women getting outside together, whether in the front or backcountry, whether in formal or informal groups, and approaching activities with a different point of view and objective then when in mix-gender groups. When women go outside together, more commonly the leadership is shared and there is a break from typical gender roles. It’s an inclusive community.
However, in my experience, I still see an overwhelming number of men in the senior management positions within the outdoor industry. When this changes, women will begin to feel more included and will start to know how important we are to this industry. It’s even more shocking when looking at the statistics regarding racial diversity. In the same conversations, we need to discuss the importance of cultural and racial diversity, inclusion of gender identity and sexuality, socio-economic diversity, and diversity in body size and ability.
I first became aware of Norrøna at industry trade shows, and was immediately drawn to the brand’s level of quality in each product. I started noticing the unique features and appreciated Norrøna’s strong brand identity and sense of self-awareness. What got me hooked was learning about the environmental values ingrained in the company, and the quiet confidence Norrøna has when speaking to the work that is continually put in to execute on these values.
Norrøna is full of people who use the product and live the brand. My design director and the entire product team push to build the best stuff out there – it’s super inspiring and I am learning a great deal. Also Norwegians are super proud to wear Norrøna, and I get to share in that pride when I tell people where I work, even though I have to say it like 3 times because my pronunciation is shit.
What inspired me to go into outdoor apparel design?
My parents pretty much forced me to go to University (with love), but the only thing that held my interest at the time was sewing. So, they actually gathered all the information about the bachelor of fashion design program I attended, and pulled all-nighters alongside me to ensure I got my portfolio submitted in time. During my studies, I struggled to find meaning in fashion design even though I loved working with textiles. But I soon started becoming more active and discovered how being outside actually helped settle my anxious thoughts. Once I started working in the outdoor industry, I became consumed with the sense of community and adventure amongst all my colleagues, I knew I wanted to continue doing this. Also, It’s super fun talking shop with athletes and users and working together to solve problems.
Life in Norway
I grew up in Vancouver, Canada, so it’s likely not surprising that Oslo feels like an extension of home to me. Of course learning Norwegian is a challenge, the thing is, everyone here speaks perfect English so I lack a bit of motivation to practice. But otherwise, it’s a port city of around 600,000 people with mountains and rain… so ya, I am pretty comfortable here. I think Canadians and Norwegians take a special liking to each other. I find myself equally in awe of the landscape and lifestyle here as I do in Canada; I’m still just waiting to see those northern lights. One of the most positive differences I have experienced here is the work-life balance. Norwegians seem to have a greater understanding of the need for that balance, and employers also respect it; It’s certainly a valuable part of the culture. I am lucky that the transition to life here has been quite easy, as most new immigrants don’t have the same luxury; I need to start paying more attention to that.