Why Fjällräven Is Going All In on Durability
The Swedish gearmaker sees ultra-hard-wearing gear as a key to a sustainable future.
Recently a customer walked into the San Francisco Fjällräven store. He was carrying a long-loved Greenland Jacket, a classic the Swedish brand has been making since 1968. This particular jacket was about ten years old and the front zipper was busted. The customer didn’t want a new jacket; his old one still worked great. He just needed the zipper repaired.
Good thing repair services are offered for the life span of every Fjällräven product. So, the store’s in-house tailor went to work: she removed the snaps, ordered new parts, and installed a new zipper. The jacket was better than new.
“Our main mission is to patch it, sew it, and piece it together for as long as the item will allow it,” says Natalie Ferris, lead tailor at Fjällräven North America. “Our customers are investing in a product made as consciously as possible and we want to return that loyalty by doing what we can to keep them out in nature for as long as possible with a minimal environmental impact.”
In an age when fast fashion is quickly filling landfills (did you know that 84 percent of clothing ends up in landfills and the average American throws out 80 pounds of textile waste each year?), outdoor brands like Fjällräven understand the intersection between durability and sustainability. Because if you can keep a product in use longer, you’re saving waste, reducing the production of new materials, and building gear that’s meant to last generations, not just seasons.
“Being aware of our footprint on the world, the quickest and most direct way to address that with our customers is repairing their existing product versus tossing and replacing items,” Ferris says. “Our design team in Sweden keeps repairs in mind throughout the entire design process, so that once an item reaches our tailors and is in need of repair, we can easily fix it and get you back outside in nature.”
Fjällräven prioritizes using organic, renewable, and recycled materials in its fabrics, ranging from traceable wool to recycled polyester to organic hemp. But its designers understand that it’s not enough just to make gear using recycled and sustainable materials. Building gear to last a lifetime is the ultimate sustainability model.
Products at Fjällräven are made with durability in mind at every level of the design. Materials like fabrics and buttons are selected for functionality as well as resiliency. Areas known for hard wear and tear, like zippers and pockets, are designed to be easy to replace or repair. Treatments are provided to lengthen products’ lives, like a water-resistant wax made from beeswax and paraffin that adds durability to jackets and backpacks.
“We are finding more ways to reuse material that would otherwise go to waste,” Ferris says. “Whether it be using recovered wool that would otherwise be burned for some of our bags and jacket insulation, our completely traceable down, or our newest material, Pine Weave, which is made from tree pulp, we are always looking for the next step in reducing waste.”
Durable, performance-oriented features are another key element in ensuring products can be used functionally for years to come—an element at work in tough, technical knees like those on the Keb Trousers and the placement of easy-access pockets like the ones on the Vidda Pro Trousers.
Showing customers how to take proper care of their gear is a big component of that sustainability effort, too. Which is why if you walk into a Fjällräven Brand Center to browse backpacks or trekking trousers, you’re also likely to be prepped on care and repair, whether that’s properly washing down sleeping bags or reapplying PFC-free durable water repellent to your waterproof layers.
“You can’t expect something to last a lifetime if you don’t clean it regularly or apply any recommended treatment to it,” Ferris says. “I encourage anyone who goes on any overnight trip to examine their gear closely when they get home. Proper care is key to a long life with any gear, be it a sleeping bag or a tote bag.”
Here’s another form of sustainability you might not expect—but one that Fjällräven has been employing since a young Swede named Åke Nordin first sewed a wooden-framed backpack in his basement that later launched a brand in 1960: classic, timeless design.
How does the way a jacket or bag looks relate to sustainability? It’s simple: if a product looks dated, it will eventually get thrown out and replaced. But if it’s got enduring style and long-lasting appeal—and that comes down to fit, design, fabric, colors, and overall aesthetic—that piece can continue to be worn for years. The joke at Fjällräven stores is that customers better like what they pick out, because they’re going to have that item for a very long time. Fjällräven designers now call this quality “emotional longevity,” and it’s one of their core principles of sustainable design. Because when something is well-loved, it will provide a lifetime of use in nature.
“Timeless design has been a focus since day one,” Ferris says. “We want you to have that jacket that gets passed down to your child, then your grandchild. We want to be that company known for classic, timeless designs that you can wear for the next 40 years and still look great.”
In 1960, Åke Nordin founded Fjällräven in his basement in the Swedish town of Örnsköldsvik. Since then the brand has stayed true to its mission of developing timeless, functional, and durable outdoor equipment, acting responsibly toward people, animals, and the environment, and inspiring more people to discover outdoor life.