How to target next-generation leisure-seekers

type - big idea
Big Idea
sector - diversity & inclusion
sector - travel & hospitality
category - black history month
Jade Akintola, founder of ITA Leisure, is elevating the outdoor goods market with a brand that lies at the intersection of nature, design and inclusivity

Can you start by explaining the concept behind ITA Leisure?

ITA means 'outside' in Yoruba. It's a discussion on leisure, something that hasn’t necessarily been at the forefront for brands, especially from the perspective of inclusion. The idea came about last year – Covid changed the way my partner and I spent time outdoors. Plus the racial awakening of the summer put us in a different head space, and that desire to be in spaces of calm – going for a drive, on a hike or to beaches – was something we were craving more than in the past.

That led me to look for products; it became apparent there were very few Black-owned outdoor brands. The market was left in a time capsule, aside from fashion, where we’re seeing lots of technical outdoor clothing and footwear. But we’ve missed a step in focusing on the benefits of these [outdoor] activities.

Why did you choose to focus on goods as opposed to building a media platform for the next generation of leisure?

The outdoor recreation economy in the US generated £641bn ($887bn, €754bn) in 2017, and that includes apparel, but also equipment and travel. Products seemed like the hardest thing to crack – and what were most absent – so we started there. Ultimately, the goal for ITA is to also scale up our digital content. That’s where a community index [of other Black-owned outdoor organisations] will come in.

How does the aesthetic of your collections – as well as the craftspeople behind the pieces – aim to represent the diverse culture of communities of Black, Indigenous people of colour?

We want different minds to be part of the process. When building the brand identity, [our team] dug into creative inspiration that stems from my Nigerian heritage. We looked at photography from West African photographers, such as James Barnor and Malick Sidibé – their work touches on the post-colonial period when these countries were finding their independence. Design-wise, the towels are inspired by a Ghanaian Ewe Kente pattern; the blanket was inspired by the graphic, bold prints of Nigerian Aso-Oke cloth. It was mostly my West African background and then pairing that with [our art director] Symrin's Indian background.

Outdoor accessories are often perceived as disposable. How are you creating products that stand the test of time?

For the chairs, we wanted to create something that was modern, but also timeless. We ended up working with Veta in Mexico City. It typically works with wood, with very simple and refined hand-made craftsmanship. With outdoor goods, people often buy something and throw it away at the end of summer. But you can use these chairs anywhere; they're not necessarily beach chairs. Think about last summer when Covid hit and people in Brooklyn were hanging outside people's houses – you can use these chairs anywhere. Put one on your fire escape, in your garden.

Published by:

11 October 2021

Author: Holly Friend and Livvy Houghton

Image: ITA Leisure


ITA Leisure

Your first campaign is entitled Radical Acts of Leisure. Why is leisure still a radical act for people of colour?

Seeing people of colour doing nothing – not working, not playing sports, not grinding and hustling – has not been part of mainstream culture. The recent trend of prioritised health and wellness is incredibly positive, but if we look back historically, the definition of leisure time is more applicable to people who had the agency to choose what to do with their time. Historically, this immediately excluded people who were slaves. Then, with civil rights, there was a visible effort to keep people of colour out of spaces that aren't for work. But if you see someone you relate to, you can picture yourself there. I was raised in London by my dad as a first-generation Nigerian, so his priority was work and education, which was instilled in me. It’s this journey that I’m trying to counter by prioritising leisure time.

What do you see for ITA and the wider leisure sector in five years’ time?

Our long-term goal is to have a product line across multiple activities such as camping, hiking and gardening. We are also building a marketplace. We started ITA not to be the only Black-owned outdoor goods brand. I have a group of friends who are campers and cook amazing food. They’re working on a cookbook, so that’s something we would want to carry. Then we want to collaborate with creators across all sectors to deepen cultural relevance, whether that's a musician or Ghetto Gastro. We can update the structures in which we partner with creators – how do we build equity into that relationship? Maybe it’s about splitting revenue, as opposed to just paying a design fee. I also want to make a new AllTrails app. There are so many aspects that need to be updated for this new generation of leisure-seekers. We can be a home to them.

‘We started ITA not to be the only Black-owned outdoor goods brand – we want to collaborate across all sectors to deepen cultural relevance’
Jade Akintola, founder, ITA Leisure

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