Jade Akintola will assure you that she’s a novice regarding the great outdoors, but that didn’t stop her from launching a brand to better serve BIPOC within green spaces. Last month, the New York-based marketing executive introduced the world to ITA Leisure, an emerging brand and marketplace catering to diversity and inclusivity in the outdoors. Through the brand's Radical Acts of Leisure campaign, Jade’s mission was to empower her community to rest and reset while also reclaiming the outdoors as a sanctuary.
Similar to many of her Black and brown peers experiencing a vast change in their social habits during the pandemic, Jade found herself retreating to nature for a sense of peace in the midst of chaos. It was during a trip to San Diego last year that she came to a profound realization about the aesthetics of outdoor gear: While the bohemian, Australian, Californian, and Western themes may seem relatively inoffensive, there are underlying messages that signal erasure. “We were very, very visible while we were [in San Diego], and with the things that we had, it was almost like we were playing a role,” Jade says. Not only was she trying to emulate a lifestyle that hadn’t really been sold to her before, but it was a deeply uncomfortable position to be in at a time where race was at the forefront of the daily discourse.
In 2017, a report from the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) revealed that consumer spending within the outdoor recreation economy annually reaches $887 billion on apparel, footwear, equipment, travel, and other services. Of course, some brands have been more progressive than others in terms of making space for more diversity, but Jade still found herself wondering, “What does it look like to have a brand where inclusivity is the foundation and less of an afterthought?” The other element was the design language of these objects, which Jade felt wasn’t relatable to this new generation of leisure seekers that she views herself a part of.
After about eight months of prototyping, ITA Leisure is finally making its debut this summer with the Beach & Park collection, which features chairs ($269), tables ($170), towels ($100), blankets ($175), and bags ($60–$80) in an assortment of sun-drenched colors and vibrant patterns. Jade’s Nigerian heritage can be seen in the fabrics that draw inspiration from the craftsmanship of Ghanaian kente cloths. The next phase for ITA will be moving into more entry-level activities that are accessible such as camping, hiking, and gardening. In case you already noticed that a few essentials are missing, Jade also fully intends to “complete the vignette on the beach,” so expect to see additional items in 2022.
Not only does the brand feature a diverse pool of talent in the campaigns, it also works directly with BIPOC creators to develop, produce, and manufacture the products. Jade is currently creating a community index of BIPOC-owned outdoor organizations as well. The intent is not to be an authority on the space, but to serve as a facilitator. By tapping into the F.U.B.U. (for us, by us) mentality, Jade has capitalized on a massive opportunity to build equity in a meaningful way. She adds, “It’s definitely challenging, but with such a clear goal it helps you move forward in the right direction.” Instead of waiting for an invitation, ITA is providing BIPOC with the tools to take up space at a table of their own making.
$269.00, ITA Leisure
$170.00, ITA Leisure
$100.00, ITA Leisure
$175.00, ITA Leisure
Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest