Carissa Misener was frustrated.
“Why don’t they make any outdoor clothing for pregnant and nursing women? There’s nothing at outdoor stores for me,” Misener remembers saying to her husband Chas, lifting her shirt in freezing temperatures to nurse their six-month-old during a cross-country ski trip.
Looking back, that moment was “the final light bulb, following my failed attempts to find appropriate maternity clothing for hiking, my disappointment in realizing that the clothes I did invest in didn’t also double for nursing, and confronting the fact that I didn’t fit in my pre-pregnancy clothes just yet.”
She put some feelers out on a local moms' Facebook group, asking: “Do you feel that your clothing style/lifestyle is represented well in the current market of pregnancy/nursing clothes?” The answer was a resounding no.
Misener family. Photo by Adrienna Elcome
It was a grievance I’d heard over and over while interviewing women for explore’s Fall 2021 article on adventuring while pregnant, too.
These answers, combined with growing annoyance at needing “so many different wardrobes to just be an [outdoor] woman in my motherhood phases—one for pre-pregnancy, one for during pregnancy, one for nursing and one for the postpartum period,” fanned a spark of an idea into a crackling flame.
For Misener, an obvious hole gaped in the adventure outfitting market. “There should be clothing that transforms with a woman’s body and is actually supportive of an outdoor lifestyle.”
And so, Wildelore, an outdoor clothing company specializing in pregnancy, nursing and beyond, was born.
It didn’t take long for their first product idea to begin to take shape. Sketches and cut up thrift store sweaters with zippers sewn in littered their home.
After a year of developmental back-and-forth with Cara Sumpton, who was previously a designer for Arcteryx and lululemon, the design for the All Phases Fleece, a transformable sweater for before, during and after pregnancy, nursing and postpartum, was complete.
Meanwhile, with endless time and the family’s life savings sunk into the idea, the couple occasionally struggled with the question: “Are we crazy?” During one of these periods of uncertainty, Misener found herself in the magazine aisle of her local grocery store.
The cover of explore, showing yours truly sporting a baby belly on a mountain, immediately caught her eye.
She devoured my article about the joys and struggles of adventuring while pregnant, including how difficult it was to find affordable and outdoor-specific maternity and nursing gear. “See! What we are doing is so needed!” she said to her husband.
“[The feature] literally couldn’t have been more perfectly timed, and it has served as both inspiration and as a nod from the universe that we are on the right path . . . that [Wildelore] would benefit women and their families, too.”
Misener quoted portions of the article in the business plan she drafted up for Phase 2 of the Community Futures Self Employment program. She was accepted and granted a much-needed wage subsidy to work full-time on Wildelore.
Between finalizing colours, planning a Kickstarter, caring for a toddler and learning every step of the apparel world along the way, Misener cut out photos from the explore article to use on an office vision board.
“When I feel any doubt or fear about the bigness of what we have taken on, I will refer to my vision board and remember that I’m not alone,” she says.
“There are so many other women out there who value being outside as much as I do,” Misener says. Getting “feedback from a woman who loves the sweater design and shares a little bit about why spending time in nature is so important to her . . . really does make it all worthwhile.”
It’s obvious an outdoor mama had a hand in the sweater design. It is thoughtfully crafted to grow with a woman’s changing body and allow for easy nursing in the outdoors thanks to strategically placed zippers. Undo the side zippers to make room for a growing baby belly or zip the under-the-bust zippers to allow nursing access. While babywearing, each zipper is tucked behind a layer of 100 per cent recycled fleece, keeping both mama and baby cozy.
Not only that, but it’s a sustainable product. Wildelore’s goal is you’ll be able to find their sweaters in perfect condition in thrift stores 20 years from now. They’ve put a lot of thought and effort into sourcing materials, working with ethical manufacturers, and designing it to be functional, beautiful and long-lasting.
“Quality is one of our core values, and it has been challenging to uphold this,” says Misener. Far along in the process, when they should have been moving into bulk production, they ran into a quality issue. They had a choice: either go with the option that resulted in a faster delivery but was lower in quality, or go with a slower timeline, but deliver superior quality.
“We went with the slower option as we really wanted to feel 100 per cent confident in our offering and authentic throughout the whole process of selling it,” says Misener.
The result is the lovely, cozy sweater, which will be launched via Kickstarter on January 17, 2023. If you sign up to become a VIP before January 16, you’ll receive 30 per cent off the retail price and have the first opportunity to reserve your preferred sweater size and colour before they’re gone.
Choose between two nature-inspired colours: a deep forest green and a creamy winter beige, both featuring Wildelore’s custom designed wildflower print.
“I only wish I had a sweater like this when I first got pregnant,” says one woman who tested the first prototype. “As a mom of two who has been pregnant, nursing, [or both] for four and a half years, this would have been a heavily used sweater. So cozy and so practical!”