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Detroit-Designed Pants Are Helping Women Feel Comfortable Outdoors

Detroit-Designed Pants Are Helping Women Feel Comfortable Outdoors
Detroit-Designed Pants Women Feel Comfortable Outdoors | Purpose Jobs

When Sara Chen found herself in a new city during the middle of a pandemic, like many, she turned to a new hobby to find community. What she discovered was more than just a hobby. It was a passion and a new idea for a startup.  

Sara became an avid rock climber, but she quickly discovered a major problem: there were no good rock climbing pants made for women, especially women with different body types. 

“Athletic clothes are often made for women with very straight figures. And the pants I was finding were like stripped down versions of men’s pants with no pockets,” says Sara. 

She also quickly realized that she wasn’t the only one struggling to find rock climbing clothes that fit well.

pangoo pants - groupWhile not formally trained in fashion design, Sara has always had a love of design and clothing making from a young age. When she moved to Detroit for a fellowship with Venture For America, she stumbled upon an opportunity at DIOP, a Detroit-based, Black-owned apparel and accessories company. Sara worked on product development for the company, sketching out ideas, packaging, marketing and branding, and learned a lot about how to bring a product to life.

With all of this experience under her belt — and a clear apparel problem that needed to be solved — Sara set out to make her own pants. 

She shared her design with friends and posted them on her social media to rave reviews. People loved the idea and the pants. Soon enough, she was launching a kickstarter that raised over $175,000, and Pangoo was born.


Action Meets Fashion

Pangoo, named after the creator of the natural world in Chinese mythology, pays homage to Sara’s culture while also representing a greater symbol of harmony, balance and integration with the natural world. 

This is exactly what the Pangoo pants are designed to do: bring more people into nature in a harmonious way. 

Sara says that growing up, she didn’t see much representation of people who looked like her in outdoor spaces. She recalls watching people camp in movies or TV shows and thinking that she could never do that. 

“It wasn’t until I moved to Detroit and met this amazing, diverse community of people who are into outdoor things,” Sara says, noting that it was a woman of color who invited her to go rock climbing in the first place. 

pangoo pantsBecause Pangoo’s pants are specifically designed to fit women better — with a waist-to-hip ratio that fits curvier bodies — plus all the essentials of excellent climbing pants, Sara’s design is intentional about making women feel more comfortable in new spaces. 

“How our clothes fit directly impacts how comfortable we feel in our environment,” Sara says. “If we physically feel more comfortable with clothes that fit well, we can also feel more emotionally comfortable and empowered to be where we are.”

This is an essential part of Pangoo’s mission, and it’s evident in the stories they tell, the models they use, and the community they’re building. 

Additionally, Sara says that the aesthetic of the pants was important, too. They have flattering waistlines and vibrant designs, all while still offering what you need to be active: many deep pockets that zip, reinforced knees, adjustable and hidden ankle cinches, and a wide gusseted crotch for big movement. Though they were designed for climbers, they can be worn wherever you want to be comfortable. In addition to climbing, Sara likes to wear hers while hiking and roller skating.

“I really wanted to lean into the aesthetic because women can be strong and active and fashionable,” says Sara. 


Detroit Design

When people think of Detroit, they might not think of a mecca for apparel design, but Detroit has a rich history in putting the world in clothes, not just on wheels. Founded and still headquartered in Detroit, Carhart has been making work apparel since 1889. Shinola has been designing and assembling watches, leather goods, and more in Detroit since 2011. And many other boutique apparel design companies are based here, like DIOP, where Sara used to work. 

Detroit is a global hub for design and creativity, and is the only UNESCO City of Design in the United States. 

“Design is the big thread that connects it all,” says Sara, “Automotive, apparel, even music, all have rich histories and communities of design in Detroit. It’s been an amazing place to find inspiration.”

Pangoo is still in pre-production (the pants are available for pre-order) and the company is working on getting the first round of product made. But already Sara is tapping into the design community in Detroit as well as the entrepreneurial one. 

One of Michigan Founder Fund’s newest members, Sara says that MFF has been so helpful throughout the journey, connecting her with new people and providing resources as they continue to grow. 

Looking ahead, Sara has some major milestones Pangoo is hoping to reach this year: getting the first round of products made and delivered, raising more capital, and launching more initiatives to continue to grow the community that’s dedicated to representing more people in outdoor spaces. 

Follow Pangoo’s journey on Instagram or visit the website to learn more.


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