A customer recently walked into the San Francisco Fjällräven store. He wore a long-loved Greenland Jacket, a classic the Swedish brand has been making since 1968. This jacket was about ten years old and the front zip was broken. The customer didn’t want a new jacket; his age still worked great. He just needed the zipper fixed.
The good things repair service is offered for the life of every Fjällräven product. So the in-house seamstress got to work: She removed the snaps, ordered new items and fitted a new zipper. The jacket was better than new.
“Our main job is to mend, sew and put it together for as long as the item allows,” says Natalie Ferris, head seamstress at Fjällräven North America. “Our customers invest in a product that is made as consciously as possible, and we want to return this loyalty by doing everything we can to keep them out in nature for as long as possible and with minimal environmental impact.”
At a time when fast fashion is filling landfills quickly (did you know that 84 percent of clothing ends up in landfills and the average American throws away 80 pounds of garbage every year?), Outdoor brands like Fjällräven understand the intersection between durability and sustainability. Because when you can use a product longer, you save waste, reduce the production of new materials, and build equipment that will last for generations, not just seasons.
“When we are aware of our global footprint, the fastest and most direct way to do this with our customers is to fix their existing product rather than throwing away and swapping items,” says Ferris. “Our design team in Sweden thinks about repairs throughout the design process. As soon as an item reaches our tailors and needs to be repaired, we can simply repair it and take you back outside into nature. “
Fjällräven uses organic, renewable and recycled materials for its fabrics, from traceable wool to recycled polyester to organic hemp. But its designers know that it is not enough to just make equipment from recycled and sustainable materials. Building equipment that will last a lifetime is the ultimate sustainability model.
Fjällräven products are made with durability in mind at all levels of design. Materials such as fabrics and buttons are selected for both functionality and durability. Areas known to be subject to heavy wear, such as zippers and pockets, are designed so that they can be easily replaced or repaired. Treatments are offered to extend the life of the products, such as a water-repellent wax made from beeswax and paraffin, which gives jackets and backpacks durability.
“We’re finding more and more ways to reuse material that would otherwise be wasted,” says Ferris. “Whether it’s using recycled wool that would otherwise be burned for some of our bag and jacket insulation, our fully traceable down, or our newest material, Pine Weave, which is made from wood pulp, we’re always looking for the next step in reducing waste . “
Heavy-duty, performance-oriented features are another key element in ensuring that products can be functionally used for years – an element of working on hard, technical knees like the Keb pants and placing easily accessible pockets like the Vidda Pro- Trousers.
Showing customers how to properly care for their equipment is also an important part of this sustainability effort. So when you walk into a Fjällräven Brand Center to browse backpacks or trekking pants, you are probably also prepared for maintenance and repairs, whether it be washing sleeping bags properly or reapplying PFC-free, permanently water-repellent material to your waterproof layers.
“You can’t expect something to last a lifetime if you don’t clean it regularly or use a recommended treatment,” says Ferris. “I encourage anyone on an overnight trip to carefully examine their equipment when they get home. Proper care is the key to a long life with any piece of equipment, be it a sleeping bag or a carrier bag. “
Here’s another form of sustainability that you might not expect – but one that Fjällräven has been using since a young Swede named Åke Nordin first sewed a wooden-framed backpack in his basement who started a brand in 1960: classic, timeless Design.
How does the appearance of a jacket or bag relate to sustainability? It’s simple: if a product looks out of date, it will eventually be thrown away and replaced. But if it has enduring style and long-lasting appeal – and that depends on the fit, design, fabric, colors, and overall aesthetic – this piece can be worn for years. The joke in Fjällräven stores is that customers like what they choose better because they will have this item for a very long time. Today, Fjällräven designers call this quality “emotional longevity” and it is one of their basic principles for sustainable design. Because if something is loved, it will be used in nature for a lifetime.
“Timeless design has been in focus from day one,” says Ferris. “We want you to have this jacket that is passed on to your child, then to your grandchild. We want to be the company that is known for classic, timeless designs that you can wear for the next 40 years and still look good. “
In 1960 Åke Nordin founded Fjällräven in his basement in Örnsköldsvik, Sweden. Since then, the brand has remained true to its mission to develop timeless, functional and durable outdoor equipment, to act responsibly towards people, animals and the environment and to inspire more people to discover the outdoors.