September 29, 2023
Empowering more people to get outside is one of our favourite things. That’s why we’re super excited to launch technical plus size hiking gear from MEC Label – because awesome outdoor adventures start with finding your right fit. While we haven’t been able to make all the gear we have in mind (idea overload!), we’re psyched that this collection marks the start of our latest MEC Label journey.
As a retailer, MEC has carried plus sizes from brands like Girlfriend Collective, Alder Apparel, Gregory and Outdoor Research for years. But when it comes to plus size gear designed by our in-house MEC Label team, we totally recognize that we’re late to the party. So this is long overdue, but we’re stoked to finally be able to offer technical plus size hiking gear by our very own MEC Label.
One thing we’re especially pumped about? The collection is created to be a system. We’ve designed base layers, insulated jackets, rain shells, hiking pants and more to work together for rain, wind, snow and demanding conditions. It’s thoughtful, it’s technical and it’s just part of our continued commitment to supporting diversity in the outdoors.
It’s also just the beginning. Think of this launch as our arrival to the trailhead: we’ve double-knotted our laces and plotted our route, but we have a long way to go (and a lot more ideas).
We took classic MEC favourites like the Rapidi-T Long Sleeve Shirt, Uplink Jacket and Borderland Pants and tailored them to plus size requirements.
What is plus sizing?
There are a lot of terms floating around out there: plus sizes, extended sizes, straight sizes – so let’s break it down a bit. “Plus sizing” means we don’t just take “straight sizes” (a.k.a. small, medium, large) and make them bigger. Plus sizes consider fuller hip to waist ratios, so you don’t end up with shells that squeeze the shoulders or rain pants that gape at the hips.
Fun fact: the Smash + Tess x MEC collab on the Fresh Air Fleece Jumpsuits in 2022 was a pivotal learning point for our design team when it came to working with measurements and fit for women’s plus size clothing.
“We went through interviewing and fitting to make sure that we had 1X, 2X, 3X and 4X sizes. It was important that we weren’t just doing one fitting for one size and grading.” – Sophie, Director Product Creation, MEC Label
All this work: designing, testing, fitting, gathering feedback, re-designing and re-testing, took about two years from initial design conception to seeing gear land in stores and on mec.ca.
In the development process, we leaned on the expertise of our community to pinpoint the problem areas in plus size gear on the market right now. Our in-house design team collaborated with other outdoor brands and plus size voices in the outdoor industry to identify challenges people face, from in-store shopping to summit.
“It was great to be part of the gear-testing process. Being able to contribute suggestions and changes to the clothing was a good feeling. I’m excited for people to try the Uplink Jacket!” – Kaila, MEC product tester
The key takeaway was simple: women want technical performance gear without compromising on comfort and colour.
More technical options. More people outside.
We listened to what our community was looking for: a plus size performance hiking gear collection with base layers, insulation, shells and pants that are versatile, but work together. We wanted to give more people more technical options, which meant layers you can mix and match, pull on and peel off as needed. Adventuring outdoors in gear that forces you to choose between staying dry and staying warm is not only uncomfortable but can be seriously unsafe in the wrong conditions. The leggings you wear running errands and summer car camping just aren’t going to cut it when you’re pushing pace up Mount Robson.
Another theme we heard? Not enough colour options. Outdoor brands with great technical gear mainly carried plus sizes in neutral colours like black, greys and navy, which not only can be unsafe as they’re hard to spot in the dark, but also begged the question: what good is great performance gear if you don’t love wearing it? So we took the colours we have for other sizes, and continued them in this collection, too.
“I look for fit, function and colour. I feel MEC has done this well and I can’t wait until they have even more plus options going up to 4X.” – Kaila, MEC product tester
MEC product tester, Rebecca took her Uplink Jacket and Borderland pants for a spin in Grasslands National Park this fall.
When you’re investing in gear, you want to make sure it’s something you’ll love year after year. That’s why we’re carrying MEC plus size hiking products in select stores so you can try them on for fit and comfort before your next multi-day or alpine ascent. “Through the fitting process we started to whittle out products that weren’t right. We wanted to make sure the gear we launched with fit the best, was the most comfortable, retained the most warmth and kept [testers] the driest,” says Emily, Category Manager of MEC Label.
What’s next for plus size MEC Label?
The new MEC Label plus size hiking gear collection is our first step on a much longer journey. It’s been awesome hearing such incredible feedback from our community and we’re looking forward to releasing more MEC favourites in plus sizes in the future.
Hint: Hey skiers, keep an eye on our channels when the season picks up. Our plus size ski gear lineup will be dropping with the first powder flurries.
Photo credits: Header image and bottom image courtesy of MEC product tester, Kaila.