Borrowing From A Centuries-Old Practice, Fjällräven is Leading the Way In Sustainability

words:: Ben Osborne.

It’s hard to take a look at an arctic fox and not care for the natural world. When you take a deeper dive, you can’t miss the amazing qualities of such a creature—its resilience, unique genetic makeup, and ability to survive in an environment that includes predators like golden eagles and polar bears, is downright admirable—so it’s no wonder that Fjällräven chose the one of a kind creature as their namesake.

“Everything we do has an undeniable impact. We need to make sure the impact is put to the best possible use.”

But it’s more than just a name that illustrates Fjällräven connection to the natural world. To be a sustainable business in this day and age is to place an emphasis on every facet of production—and this is exactly what Fjällräven has done. What began as a tribute to the fox grew into the Arctic Fox Initiative to protect these amazing creatures, and eventually, to their Re-Wool program.

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What is Re-Wool? Well—it’s what it sounds like. It’s a program that re-uses wool that would otherwise be considered “waste” in the rest of textile industry. The idea is not original—it is actually centuries old. Taken from a region in Italy that was once at the forefront of the textile industry for hundreds of years, the region’s businesses developed the very technique that Fjällräven has been implanting, taking wool scraps and weaving them with additional materials to use every piece of wool possible. It’s no secret that the textile industry is one of the greatest threats to the future of our planet—so programs like this are absolutely vital.

Where it all starts. Photo courtesy of Fjällräven

Today, Fjällräven uses a strikingly similar process, weaving polyester in with the excess wool. Head of Sustainability at Fjällräven, Christiane Tornberg puts it perfectly: “Everything we do has an undeniable impact. We need to make sure the impact is put to the best possible use.”

With the Re-Wool program, wool that would generally be left unused is repurposed into garments that are stylish, functional, and most importantly, sustainable. However, getting to the point where they could meet Fjällräven quality with the recycled wool was not easy—but a strong team of product developers made it happen.

“I thought it was interesting, so I brought it up with the team and everyone thought it was a good idea,” Recalls product developer Peter Larsson.  “We have really strict quality criteria, so we had to ensure the fibers good enough. But once that was confirmed it made perfect sense to go ahead.”

Every piece of wool is accounted for with the Re-Wool program. Photo courtesy of Fjällräven

The yarn comes from different sources including leftover wool from sweaters, yarn still on the cones, and offcuts from suits. After the wool is collected, the colour sorted yarn is then shredded, and blended together to replicate the same colours and styles that Fjällräven has become world-famous for.

After wool fibres are ripped apart to be sorted and spun into new fibres, the result is a slightly shorter fibre than the high-quality virgin wool that consumers have come to expect.

“They’ve been using this technique for hundreds of years in Prato, so they’re really good at it. The quality is great; it’s durable and really soft,” explains Sarah Isaksson, one of Fjällräven’s designers. On top of being able to minimize waste, the re-used wool has an unexpected benefit—the colour scheme is nuanced, and totally unique to the Re-Wool program.

The finished product. Photo courtesy of Fjällräven

The colours are much deeper, giving the pieces added value from a product that most companies would have simply thrown away. But aside from all the benefits to the consumer, the real winner is the environment. Recycling wool is far less energy and resource-intensive, and Fjällräven is able to produce products of high quality with less waste.

As world population grows and our consumption escalates, programs like these are absolutely vital—and it’s important that companies like Fjällräven are leading the way with important sustainability initiatives. —ML