Meander Apparel | The Story

Bridging the divide between performance outerwear and lifestyle clothing, Meander gear thrives whether you’re on the bike, commuting in the city or working from home

24th November 2020 | Words by Matt Jones @ WildBounds HQ

Like many great adventures, the Meander story began on two wheels: with a fundraising cycle challenge from London to Paris, undertaken by the brand’s co-founders, Jill and Steve Henry. Unlike most charity challenge cyclists, however, the Henrys chose a deliberately indirect route to the French capital, making their way through northern France at a slower pace, sampling espressos in quiet, rural towns and pausing for rest at vineyards. In that sense, the challenge became focused on much more than the finish line – it was about the journey itself and the experiences the pair would garner along the way. That sense of allowing yourself to get sidetracked is precisely what inspired the name of the brand, Meander.

RELATED: Bikepacking Across Deserts & Over Mountains: Part One

Meander's HQ in Edinburgh
The creative process behind Meander

Long hours spent in the saddle gave both Jill and Steve an appreciation for high-quality apparel, though the one item they couldn’t find was a cycling jacket that would meet their standards: exceptional performance fused with a casual style suited to cafes and everyday life. Their options were limited to “fashion” cycling jackets with little-to-no substance or technical apparel that was completely waterproof but had no more style than a bin bag. It was an issue that the Henrys resolved to address when they returned from Paris.

Back home in Edinburgh, the pair set about designing this perfect jacket and created multiple prototypes in their search for a product that would match up to their high expectations. Their criteria were clear: behind the classic, minimalist style would be a 100% waterproof jacket that remained breathable and comfy while on the move, with hidden features designed to complement an active, adventurous lifestyle. Jill’s experience in the fashion industry proved invaluable in creating these prototypes while Steve was tasked with testing them, which turned him into an oddity in the cycling community: a poor weather cyclist. Whenever storm clouds gathered, he would grab his bike and head for the hills, testing the latest version of their ambitious jacket.

The Meander jacket being manufactured
Each jacket is made with care and precision at their specialist factory

Fortunately, this being Scotland, Steve had plenty of opportunities to ensure the jacket measured up to their exacting performance standards. To find a material that could withstand the Scottish weather, they sourced a family-run mill in Italy and a specialist factory in Sofia, Bulgaria, both of which are committed to running a sustainable operation and omit the use of harmful chemicals. The fabric they use is fully waterproof, lightweight and breathable - in other words, perfectly suited to both long-distance cycling in the Highlands and an urban commute.

The product that resulted from this meticulous process remains the brand’s hero piece: the eponymous Meander Jacket. It fuses performance with an easy, laidback style that’s perfect for high street espressos and office commuting alike. Light enough to pack in a pannier but stalwart enough for torrential rain, the jacket is a versatile companion for any adventure. It even features reflective details that improve your visibility on the bike but that can also be folded away when strolling around town, for a more low-key look.

What’s more, Meander’s eco-friendly ethos means that each jacket has a limited carbon footprint. Every product is built to last and created without the use of harmful chemicals, while Meander’s unique lifetime repair service will ensure that your jacket will never let you down.

RELATED: Bikepacking Across Deserts & Over Mountains: Part Two

The Meander jacket in grey and navy
The Meander Jacket is cut to comfortable, unisex fit and available in navy, grey or orange

Spurred on by its success, Jill and Steve decided to turn their attentions to other multi-purpose apparel. As such, the Meander jacket has also been joined by a carefully considered collection of other pieces, all with a similar focus on versatile performance allied with ultimate sustainability. A case in point is the Recycled Parka – a product that hugely impressed the judges at major outdoor industry trade show ISPO in 2019. So much so, in fact, that it landed Meander a spot in the ISPO Top 50 Newcomers line-up. This prestigious accolade recognises the most promising newcomers in the outdoor industry, and former award winners include the all-conquering GoPro, premium watch and accessories brand Nixon and cult Swiss trail-running shoe manufacturer On.

Made from plastic bottles, the Meander parka is fully recycled – and that includes both the fabric and the waterproof membrane. What’s more, it’s also completely recyclable, so at the end of the garment’s lifespan the production loop can be closed too, creating a fully cyclical manufacturing process. Bringing the recycled parka to life took almost as many prototypes as the original Meander Jacket, in order to fine-tune every element of the fit and perfect the tiniest details. Jill explains: “We wanted to create an investment piece that customers will buy and wear and use for the next ten years, so it was vital to test the components and the functionality to guarantee they’ll be durable and effective. Ultimately, we’re not turning out fast fashion, so it’s worth putting the time in to create and develop pieces that will stay in the collection for a long time”.

The brand is rightly proud of the parka. It’s smart enough to wear around town but has the hidden performance to head into the outdoors too. Of course, that blend of both performance and functionality means that pieces are harder-wearing and more durable in every walk of life. Jill agrees: “Meander is all about making stuff that doesn’t just fulfil a niche activity – it’s about versatile performance for every facet of everyday life, so even pieces like our baselayers work well whether you’re playing sport, commuting, hiking – whatever”.

To achieve that, the Weekender tees and baselayers use a dry-release fabric that wicks sweat and keeps you cool. But they are also impregnated with Polygiene, a permanent anti-odour treatment that is added to the fabric during production. This means they won’t require such frequent laundering, a good thing, since washing our clothes less is much better for the environment. In fact, two thirds of the environmental impact of the average piece of clothing comes from your home laundry rather than from the manufacturing process.

But the brand is always on the hunt for innovative, eco-friendly fabrics that can bring even more versatility as well as a touch of luxury to their products too. Take Meander’s Nomad Bomber, which has a silky-soft lining made from a natural fibre called kapok. “We were immediately impressed with kapok’s capabilities”, reveals Jill. “It’s very sustainable, fast-growing, not particularly resource intensive – unlike cotton – but is just as soft and has naturally anti-bacterial properties too”.

Meander is also now signed up to the 1% For the Planet initiative, an international organisation whose members contribute at least one per cent of their annual sales to environmental causes. Both Jill and Steve are adamant that their company should give back to worthy causes. “Personally, what I also like about it is that as a member you give back 1% of sales, not profits, so you’re committed whether you make money or not”, says Jill. In addition, Meander works with Forest Carbon to calculate and offset its carbon emissions via a tree-planting scheme to regenerate Scottish native woodland.

Indeed, the brand still wears its Scottish heritage proudly. Being based in Edinburgh means that Meander has the perfect testing ground for its apparel on its doorstep. “It’s certainly easy to get out there and get inspired, which is really how we tend to come up with new ideas for products”, says Jill. “Also, the nice thing about living in the city is that it gives us a good handle on how to make versatile clothing for different environments. And of course, when you live somewhere famous for getting four seasons in one day, you quickly learn the value of waterproof clothing!”

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