I was belaying my friend Marlaina up a rock wall in Squamish. She was 15 feet up when I noticed her leggings—you stare at a lot of butts while climbing. “Is that kale on your pants?” I asked. It was. And she proceeded to tell me about Bewildher, a sustainable leggings designer and manufacturer in Squamish, BC.
Two months later, I was on a run with Nadine Manson, the founder of Bewildher, talking about collaboration, goals, sustainable fashion, fair wages, and helping women and girls rise. It was clear with every foot in front of the other that Nadine was our kinda person and that Bewildher was the kind of organization we’d be honoured to collaborate with.
Two of the things we were drawn to immediately was Nadine’s honesty and integrity: “I was always a little socially awkward,” she admits, which meant her silence was often mistaken for snobbery. “I never knew what to say and when I did venture to say something it usually came out wrong.” She was a straight A student whom teachers loved and kids loathed as a result.
“I felt like an outcast. When I hit puberty, I went from puny to pudgy, fast. And the bullying drove me to become obsessed with dieting and fitness.”
Nadine became obsessive. She exercised up to 8 hours per day, fueled herself (barely) with non-fat low-cal food. And succeeded only at yo-yoing until her mid-twenties when she moved into a highly active, contagiously happy community in the wilderness and it finally sunk in that fitness should be fun, “and my goals deeper than just looking a certain way to fit in.”
Changing her mindset gave her the confidence to start her own fitness apparel brand, BeWildHer.
Her mission was simple: “Continue to inspire myself and other women to feel more joy while pursuing health and wellness.”
It began humbly as a business fueled by fun prints (ahem, those kale pants we were talking about!). But it became clear that while she was trying to encourage women, she was actually suppressing women—the ones who sew the apparel. “All I could see was that I was spending dollars on clothes that I could have been spending on ensuring the person who made them could afford to feed her family. I was ready to quit, heart breaking from the hardness of the fashion industry, but I couldn’t.” But Nadine is not a quitter (I mean, the new mom is regularly on race podiums, so you know she knows how to dig deep!)
“You don’t just quit. That’s how you know it’s your calling, it keeps beckoning you forward when all others have turned back”.
Nadine’s vision for Bewildher is ultra clear: “It’s a bright space designed to feel like you’re outside, with activewear being sold in the front and sewn in the back, without walls or multiple floors creating segregation between workers, creators and consumers. We’re all on the same level, each position treated with respect and high regard. I see gratification radiating from the faces of empowered women supporting each other, feeling the joy that comes from knowing you’re apart of something bigger than yourself, a movement that’s taking consumer dollars away from all that’s wrong and investing them into brands doing it right. My vision is like farm to table, but it’s factory to retail floor.”
This is why we love this woman.
This lofty vision stems from Nadine’s experience in the fashion industry prior to launching Bewildher. Specifically, her experience with fast-fashion: “To maximize profits fast-fashion brands build inventory in excess of anticipated sales. Their goal is to never miss a sale, so shelves are kept fully stocked with every size and color imaginable. To offset the risk of leftover inventory, rock bottom prices are negotiated with offshore factory owners willing to underbid to get contracts. As you can imagine clothing made for rock bottom prices is not good quality— fabrics are thread-bare and poorly sewn seams come undone. All of this contributes to the trillion-dollar problem of leftover inventory worldwide and 12 million tonnes of clothing ending up in landfills every year.”
It’s a huge and disgusting problem that very few of us think about when we purchase our clothes. The truth is, with somebody has to pay for all the waste the industry makes. And the ones who take the biggest hit are the workers. “Even a controlled minimum wage often falls below the poverty line,” Nadine says.
In her opinion, “fast-fashion is fast-forwarding us to a world crisis.” Which is why Bewildher has adopted slow-fashion principles and values. Their business model is pre-order only, which eliminates material waste from leftover inventory. The financial gain from this extends toward fair wages for workers and fair prices for consumers. There’s a whole lotta winning going on—for the planet, for workers, for the fashion industry, and for customers too.
And, if that’s not enough, Bewildher also plants a tree for every single sale they make and donates 1% of their total annual revenue to the planet.
Kablammo! This company is all heart.
Coming up next for Bewildher: an in-house sewing facility and some rad new leggings for winter.
If you want to learn more about Nadine, Bewildher, and the slow-fashion movement, follow @bewildher, check out bewildher.com, and even reach out to Nadine directly at firstname.lastname@example.org with ideas, encouragement, and all good things. Also, meet the women who make our Adventure Leggings—and all of Bewildher's fitness apparel.
Our Adventure Leggings, a Bewildher collaboration, are available now.