Swedish outdoor brand, Fjällräven, wants to bring Swedish wool back into production. Working together with Brattlandsgården, a farm in central Sweden, it aims to ensure full traceability in its wool production chain on home turf. And the first step is already complete: high-quality wool from Swedish sheep.
Fjällräven is a brand that takes all aspects of sustainability seriously. In 2013 it launched The Fjällräven Way, its sustainability mission. It’s goal: to enable a healthier outdoor life, now and for future generations. This mission is multifaceted, encompassing nature, economy, wellbeing and social responsibility. As a result, Fjällräven has banned PFCs from its production, expanded its use of organic and recycled materials and established a traceable down policy known as its Down Promise, which was deemed best in the outdoor industry by Four Paws.
Now Fjällräven is taking a step further along its sustainability journey. Driven by CEO Martin Axelhed and sustainability manager Christiane Dolva, Fjällräven is hoping to also have full traceability in its wool chain and aims to breathe life into the Swedish wool industry.
Traceability is difficult, especially when sourcing from far away countries such as Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. There are challenges in terms of getting to the farm level but also of knowing what kind of requirements to put on the farm.
“We’ve often bought wool through yarn manufacturers or even fabric manufacturers that contact yarn manufacturers, that have contact with spinners and so on. So it’s been challenging to source our wool directly from the farm that produces it. We also wanted to see if it was possible to establish a production and supply chain that’s all Swedish, but this is difficult when the industry has been outsourced for such a long time.” says Christiane.
Swedish sheep are generally bred for meat. A large amount of the wool that is produced is generally thrown away. This is because the wool is course and stiff, so it’s generally used for carpets. But Fjällräven wanted to address this wastage while at the same time delving into the wool production chain to close any gaps and clear up any grey areas.
And so began the Swedish wool best practice project. Working together with a holistic management farm, Brattlandsgården in central Sweden, Fjällräven and farmer Natasha Skott have bought some sheep. They are a new Swedish breed, known as Jämtlandsfår, that produces fine quality wool that’s between 19 and 21 microns. By comparison, merino wool is between 17 and 24 mircons*.
So far the adult sheep have been sheared twice at Brattlandsgården and the new lambs, born in June, have just received their first shearing. The next stage is to wash and spin the wool then weave it into a limited run of sweaters, available for autumn/winter 2017.
Despite the fact the project is in its infancy, Fjällräven has already learned a lot. “We’ve learned what kinds of requirements we should put on our suppliers to get really high quality wool. It’s not just about asking for a certain hand feel or just lambs wool. It’s down to micron level in terms of getting what you want,” explains Christiane.
“And then we’ve learned a lot about the washing process and the treatments you can give the wool afterwards, such as a superwash, which coats the wool with a plastic film so it can go in the washing machine. We’ve decided not to use this kind of treatment. Our Swedish wool will be uncoloured, only natural colours and no dyes. This means however, that our customers have to learn how to care for it and take the time to hand wash the final product.”
Fjällräven hopes to use insights and experiences from this pilot project and apply them to its international wool supply chain. It’s also working with Swedish wool washers, spinners and knitters to ensure a 100% Swedish made product. The aim is to scale up and expand the project in the future while still maintaining full traceability.
*The lower the number the finer the wool.
In 1960, Åke Nordin founded Fjällräven in his basement in the town of Örnsköldsvik in northern Sweden. Today the company's timeless, functional and durable outdoor equipment enjoys a global presence and can be found in over 30 countries. Fjällräven's product range comprises outdoor clothing and accessories for men and women as well as backpacks, tents and sleeping bags.
Fjällräven prioritises acting responsibly towards people, animals and nature and encouraging and sustaining public interest in the outdoors. The company is the initiator of two popular outdoor events, Fjällräven Classic and Fjällräven Polar, which attract thousands of participants every year.