Rue Mapp was taught to sew by her mom, an Oakland, California seamstress known for outfitting members of her family’s church. By the time she was 7, Rue knew how to sew and design clothing for her dolls. By the time she was in high school, she designed and sewed most of her school wardrobe, and prom dresses for herself and friends. As a young adult, she started her first business, Rulette Wear, out of a rented studio in San Francisco, where she honed her design, fabric selection, pattern making and grading, in-house sample making, and contracted seamstresses to help with production.
She joined a local street fashion design collective, Taber Alley Market, as part of its weekly fashion market in a downtown warehouse where local designers would come together every weekend to showcase and sell their wares to the public in a social atmosphere with music and food. And she also sold small runs of clothing to boutiques from San Francisco’s Haight Ashbury to South of Market.
She made her first outdoor apparel during that time for her snowboarding friends, who were looking for a better design that was comfortable, and waterproof. She went on to make custom bridal gowns and later home interiors.
After getting married and starting a family in her mid 20’s, Rue’s sewing and design took a pause, but her passion and interest in fashion, especially for non standard body profiles never waned.
The collaboration between Outdoor Afro, Inc. and the REI, marks a new beginning and a reignition of a long-time passion that was reinspired by her work through the not-for-profit she founded, Outdoor Afro. Over the past decade, Rue recognized that fit, fashion, and functionality were missing from the outdoor apparel market, making it harder for non-traditional outdoor enthusiasts to find clothing that would be comfortable without compromising style, and the ability for clothing to meet outdoor recreation moments.
In 2020, Rue was introduced to Tae Kim, a well respected designer in the outdoor industry – the two made fast friends, and connected deeply around a shared vision and cultural background that made their design partnership come naturally. Tae was able to understand and articulate Rue’s design vision that lifts up 80’s and 90’s fashion inspiration that also highlight color and styling to meet the needs of more diverse body types.
Outdoor Afro, Inc was formed in 2021, and is dedicated to celebrating and inspiring outdoor lifestyle connections through relevant product design and manufacturing. And we cannot be more proud and grateful to share our first launch and offering through our partnership with REI Co-op that we know will be a solution for many who are ready to be welcomed and inspired in their outdoor experiences.