In April 2015, a bizarre but heart-warming event took place in one of the most hostile environments on Earth: the North Pole. Former England rugby international players Ollie Phillips and Tim Stimpson led 11 challengers as part of an initiative from Wooden Spoon, the rugby charity - to set a new world record for the northernmost game of rugby ever played. Not only is that fantastic in itself, the challengers collectively raised £240,000 for charity. Among that group of adventurous souls was Steve Henry, whose route to the Pole had yielded much more than a generous donation.
Steve was no stranger to physical challenge or exotic travel - he’d previously run the notorious Marathon des Sables and signed up to race across a frozen lake in Siberia - but this latest event would ask even more of him. Everyone who took part in the Arctic challenge was required to raise £25,000 for charity, which Steve knew would take far more than a JustGiving page. He and his partner, Jill, organised a fund-raising cycle from London to Paris, which took place just two weeks before Steve trekked north (as it turns out, clocking 140km a day isn’t the best preparation for an expedition to the Arctic).
The Henry’s cycle to the White Cliffs and through northern France was an intense physical undertaking, but they had deliberately chosen an indirect route to Paris. Neither of them, or their entourage, were interested in blazing a trail through the French countryside - instead, they planned to stop at regular intervals, sampling espressos in quiet, rural towns and pausing for rest at vineyards. In that sense, the journey became focused on much more than the finish line - it was about the journey itself and the experiences they would garner along the way. That sense of allowing yourself to sidetracked actually inspired the name of their subsequent brand, 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.
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 is astounding: the Meander Jacket is exactly what Jill and Steve had needed on their London-Paris cycle, fusing high-performance with an easy, laidback style that’s perfect for high street espressos and office commuting. Light enough to pack in on itself but stalwart enough for torrential rain, the jacket is versatile enough to accompany you on any adventure you undertake. It even features reflective details that improve your visibility on the bike but that can also be folded away when strolling around town.
What’s more, Meander’s focus on eco-friendly materials and a sustainable operation means that each jacket has a limited carbon footprint. Not only is each jacket built to last and created without the use of harmful chemicals, Meander plant a tree for each product sold to offset the carbon cost of manufacturing it. Perhaps the most impressive part of that puzzle is the lifetime repair service they operate for each and every jacket they sell, ensuring that they never let you down. Jill left the fashion industry after becoming disillusioned with the amount of waste it produces and Steve’s love for exotic adventures is backed up by his qualification as a dive instructor - there was never any doubt that their brand would support eco initiatives.
The success of the Meander Jacket has prompted the Henrys to start designing new products and prototypes, which have some pretty big shoes to fill. In the meantime, Steve has the small matter of a UTMB-qualifying ultramarathon in the Highlands to train for - if recent history is anything to go by, the journey there will be memorable.
Comments will be approved before showing up.