Brand Story: Fjallraven – Forever Nature

I am currently at The End of World, in a small town called Ushuaia in the Argentinian side of Patagonia which fits particularly well with the timing of writing this article. I’ve been on a world trip for over a year now, immersing myself in cultures and learning about people and how the way we consume impacts our planet.

Visiting Patagonia has not always been a dream of mine because frankly as much as I’ve told myself that I like the outdoors it’s not something I’ve done much of. I’ve lived in cities most of my life though nature has always had a strong appeal on me. Of course, working on Miigle+ has also tremendously helped me discover amazing brands catering not only to outdoors enthusiasts but also to the preservation of our planet’s wilderness. Fjallraven is one of such brands and after reading its corporate mission I fell in love with it.

To celebrate my 35th birthday, a day that coincides with Earth Day, I spontaneously decided to spend the next 3 months backpacking through South America with the goal of coming to Patagonia (and if possible Antarctica). And of course, my backpack of choice was Fjallraven. Below is a picture of me in Cusco, Peru with my Fjallraven Kajka.

Luc Berlin in Cusco Peru

To truly understand why I fell in love with Fjallraven please continue reading below – I’m sure you’ll fall in love with it too.

Fjallraven – Forever Nature

In 1950, a 14-year-old Swede called Ake Nordin decided after a mountain hike that his backpack was a bit uncomfortable and could be improved. Ake experimented at home and created a bag attached to a wooden frame that could withstand a heavier load. A decade later, he refined the model by replacing the wood with much lighter aluminum and a revolutionary backpacking product was born that endures to this day.

This invention was the springboard for Fjallraven, the company started by Nordin from his home in Ornskoldsvik, northern Sweden, in 1960. They say that the most powerful brands are established to solve a problem and provide an answer to a previously unanswered question. Fjallraven, from Nordin’s vantage point of being a keen trekker and mountaineer himself, provided a brilliant solution for outdoor enthusiasts wanting to pack heavier loads on hiking excursions.

Over half a century later, Fjallraven – which means Arctic Fox in Swedish – is one of the most renowned and respected names in outdoor wear. Its products sell in over 20 countries, including in Europe, the US and China. In Scandinavia, the brand outsells Nike in the outdoor clothing market. It has won several awards for its innovative products and sustainable business methods.

The company has branched out since those early days to provide a range of clothing and camping gear. Its mission is “to enable and inspire people to spend more time in nature” and it has set out to do this by providing products that seek to offer that little bit extra.

These include Greenland all-weather outdoor clothing (made from a special G-1000 polyester/cotton material that can be coated with Greenland Wax for added all-weather durability), expedition jackets made using down for added warmth and insulation, the iconic Kanken rectangular backpack, plus tents, sleeping bags and accessories.

Fjallraven’s emphasis has been on quality and durability rather than fashionable fads. Nordin had a reputation for working with outdoor survival experts to create technically excellent products. The company eschews the extreme sports market in favor of producing timeless, long-lasting goods for all who enjoy the wonders of nature. One of their mottos is “go slowly, tread carefully”.

The brand is also noted for its ethical and sustainable business model. Fjallraven’s Code of Conduct covers animal welfare, human rights, the environment, sustainable development and anti-corruption. All products sold are free of environmentally-damaging PFCs (per-fluorinated compounds), while many other companies are only committed to eradicating these by 2020. Sustainable materials such as recycled wool and organic hemp are preferred. There is no use of angora or mulesing wool, or live-plucked down. Recycled products have been launched in recent years, such as the Re-Kanken backpack made from polyester from recycled bottles.

Fjallraven is a signed up member of both the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and the Fair Labor Association. On its website, the company states a commitment to working closely with partners and suppliers regarding materials sourced and employee conditions in overseas factories. They aim for 100 percent traceability regarding animal-sourced products.

“We now place greater demands on suppliers” says head of sustainability Christiane Dolva. “We want to know where the material has come from, right down to farm level.”

Fjallraven has a corporate social responsibility program called the Arctic Fox Initiative, inspired by the company name and by their first foray into CSR in 1994 when they began funding research to help save the Arctic Fox population in Sweden. The initiative uses money generated from sales and events to support nature conservation projects. As part of their environmental pledge, Fjallraven is also aiming to be completely carbon neutral by 2025.

As part of the company commitment to helping and encouraging people to enjoy the great outdoors, which was Nordin’s overriding vision all those years ago, Fjallraven has expanded its scope in recent years to include regular outdoor events. There are two annual events open to all – the Fjallraven Polar, which is a dog-sled through the Arctic Tundra, and the Fjallraven Classic, a 110km trek across northern Sweden. With both of these events, the emphasis is on the social aspects of enjoying the experience and making new connections rather than competition and winning.

Having cemented its reputation in Europe, the brand is now establishing itself as a big player further afield. Fjallraven North America is the Stateside division, with a flagship store opening in New York City in 2009. Ake Nordin passed away in 2013, just over half a century after Fjallraven’s beginnings, but the creation which grew from that original aluminum-framed backpack design looks like it has plenty of life left in it yet.