If you’ve ever been stuck behind a hipster wearing a backpack with the name Kånken and a cute red fox on the back, you’re familiar with Fjällräven, the Swedish outdoor gear brand. With their recently opened NoLIta boutique, the first in the U.S, the brand is quickly spreading stateside. It’s the most popular Swedish export after lutefisk and blonde women. So it behooves you to know a bit about the brand because nothing’s a better opening line when hitting on Scandinavian models than, “Hey is that a Kvikkjokk fleece vest you’re wearing?”
As a boy in Örnsköldsvik in northern Sweden in the 1950′s, Fjällräven’s founder Åke Nordin was confounded by the uncomfortable backpacks that were a small Swedish boys only option. So he craftily built one himself, out of a wooden frame and canvas. Since then, Nordin hasn’t stopped obsessing over how to build the most effective, comfortable, and durable backpack. In 1970, Nordin founded Fjällräven and began production of his backpack, by this time substituting lightweight aluminum for heavier wood. But Fjällräven’s purview has since extended to parkas, jackets, sleeping bags, and tents, all combining simple Swedish design with a punctilious attention to detail and craftsmanship. In 1968, Fjällräven introduced the G-1000, a lightweight, durable fabric that allowed everything from tents to parkas to get ever lighter and more compact. All it takes is some waxing to maintain. In 1978, Nordin turned his attention to the classroom. The Kånken model came about in 1978 after a generation of Swedish school children grew up with back problems caused by poorly designed backpacks. (It could be those shoddy Ikea school chairs but…) It soon became a symbol of progressive-minded political views in Sweden.
Today Fjällräven continues to innovate, turning to ecofriendly fabrics like bamboo into T-shirts and fleeces and sponsoring intense treks into the Nordic wilderness. The Kråken continues to be a symbol for rugged stylishness and since 2008, when Fjällräven began a program of donating money to fund windpower making the Kråken 100% climate-compensated, a forward-thinking friendly approach to nature.
Visit our Fjällräven sale tomorrow, 10/15, at noon ET on Gilt Man.