When Mandy ‘Purple Rain’ Bland set out to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail in 2012, she packed rain gear that was compact, affordable, and extremely lightweight. She packed a trash bag.
“But after getting snowed and rained on in the Smokies, I quickly realized it wasn’t cutting the mustard,” Mandy laughed. “A lot of people were making their own gear, and that just blew my mind! I didn’t even know that was an option!”
Desperate for something more suitable and effective, she called her mom and asked her to create a proper rain skirt; in her favorite color, purple, of course.
“It set the idea in place that you could be more comfortable and confident with the right hiking attire,” Mandy said. Soon after, Mandy’s trail name became Purple Rain.
That’s just the prologue to the Purple Rain Adventure Skirts story.
Mandy’s successful AT thru-hike only made her crave hiking more. Challenging life circumstances and post-trail depression made it all the more so. Along with her partner, Ryan, she set out the following year to section hike Oregon’s 455 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. Only this time, Mandy wanted to be the person on the trail who made her own gear.
“I just started sewing!” she laughed. Loving hiking skirts, she started there.
It was 2013, and hiking in a skirt wasn’t nearly as popular as it is today. “But by the time we were five or ten miles in, I knew I was not going back!” Mandy said. “The airflow was so liberating!”
Once home after the section hike, back in Medford, Oregon, Mandy dreaded writing yet another cover letter. “I knew I had to do something and pay the bills, but I didn’t want to go back to the 9 to 5 career world,” she said.
It was then she asked herself, “Can I make a ‘go’ at making this skirt?”
She flew to LA’s fashion district and started digging around and familiarizing herself with fabrics. She found robust seconds from brands like Columbia and Nike. “I sized up all my friends, used them as my models, and pressed LIVE on Etsy!” Mandy said.
Mandy’s first hiking skirts were rather rudimentary and have seen many iterations since. But the founding features remain the same: wide waistbands to lay comfortably over the belly and under a pack’s hip belt, super stretchy fabric, totally 110% ‘squat worthy’, and perhaps best of all, Purple Rain Adventure Skirts have pockets — big, wide pockets, on both sides, designed to keep hiking essentials close and secure!
“Pockets are what sell my skirt,” Mandy said. “Women aren’t used to having good pockets in their clothing.”
Though Mandy’s customers are hardly limited to women. “I can’t sew them fast enough!” she said of her Adventures Kilts. The Kilt’s front wrap design is popular among the fellas. It allows for a longer stride and maximum coverage. And, when the freedom gets a bit too free, the kilt can transform into shorts with a simple snap.
Until recently, Mandy ran all aspects of the business herself. “I love being able to tweak things and do things in house,” she said. “That’s where the evolution of the products come from.”
As a result of being the sole employee, though, Mandy admitted when things go wrong, there’s no one to blame but herself.
“I’m completely self-taught, so there are a lot of mishaps,” she laughed. “But, I am lucky enough to have my mom as an accountant helping me keep my books straight and make sure I pay my taxes on time!”
Nearly ten years into Purple Rain Skirts Mandy isn’t looking back. “I’m in this for the lifestyle,” she said.
As she reflects on creating a thriving brand, she can’t help but pinch herself. “Ten years ago, this was my dream come true. When I reflect, it makes my heart swell. It’s exactly what I would have dreamed of.”
“To think, when you’re all grown up, you’re gonna have this skirt business and get hikers all stoked out…I did it! Or, at least I’m doing it,” she laughed.
“I want to be a business woman, but I don’t want my son to only see that. I work hard when we’re home, but then I can put the systems in place so we can go do fun stuff,” Mandy said. “I want to be able to have this balance of work and life, and for me, that’s going on grand adventures.”
Currently, Mandy, Ryan, and their five-year old son are on their grandest adventure yet. One that fills Mandy with “sheer fear and excitement.”
Two days ago, on Mar 20, 2022, the trio set foot on the Southern Terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail.
It’s been ten years since Mandy hiked the AT. She just turned 40 and it felt right to return to the trail.
“We went back and forth. I wanted to go do this, but how is it going to work? How can I step away from my family for six months?”
With a few victorious practice hikes under their belt, Purple Rain, Double Dog, and Bedtime decided to take on the PCT, as a family.
Mandy posted photos on Instagram of the crew at the Southern Terminus. The caption reads:
A wise friend once told me “don’t assume you’ll be able to do it later”. This one is for you Nurse Betty!
Follow the family’s adventure on Instagram @purplerainskirts.