Being Earth-friendly is at the core of Fjällräven. The Swedish brand has been on an ongoing exploration into more sustainable ways of creating durable, functional, and timeless apparel, bags, and gear. Its latest achievement is producing the ever-popular Kånken backpack using Fjällräven’s newly-developed Pine Weave material: a wood-based fabric made out of filament fibers, and optimized for extra strength and functionality. Called the Tree-Kånken, this remix of an icon, as the brand puts it, is “inspired by the past” while “exploring the future.”
Featuring Fjällräven’s exclusively-developed Pine Weave fabric, its new backpack is a mix of heritage and innovation. Great for everyday use, the updated classic features loops in the front for attaching bike lights, and bottom straps to secure any of your needs, like a jacket or yoga mat. The backpack will be available in Lichen Green, Charcoal Grey, Maple Yellow and New Moon Blue.
The new Tree-Kånken is a direct nod to the first Kånken released in 1978, with the same simplicity paired with equal functionality. Although the backpack has only been redesigned just slightly over the decades, materiality has been a primary focus when modernizing silhouette. Not relying on finite fossil fuels, which are found in synthetic materials, is a priority for the brand.
“Developing Pine Weave is a way for us to stay on top of things, to be able to explore new and better ways of making and sourcing materials,” said Fjällräven Product Developer Johanna Mollberg in a press release. “It is a journey where we always try to improve our environmental footprint.”
Pine Weave serves as the main fabric and lining of the Tree-Kånken. The backpack also uses polypropylene for its webbing. The bio-based fabric starts as a raw wood material that is boiled into a pulp, then chemically dissolved in a closed system to create a sticky, viscous liquid called cellulose. Lyocell fibers then emerge after pushing the cellulose mixture through spinnerets, and the fibers are then washed, dried, and spun into yarn.
Due to the nature of the fibers, many cellulosic fabrics don’t hold up in terms of durability and functionality. Fjällräven’s products are meant for the outdoors and to withstand many of Earth’s conditions, so compromising on those key areas is not an option for the brand. In order to prolong the life of the fabric and increase its durability, the yarn is woven into a plain weave and coated with a mixture of PU and wax. “It doesn’t matter how sustainable it is, if a shell material doesn’t keep you dry we won’t consider it. We must balance a material’s functionality and efficiency with its environmental impact,” the brand says when breaking down its use of sustainable materials.
The sheer fact that a renewable material is being used should be celebrated, but it doesn’t stop the consideration Fjällräven has for the sustainability process behind its product. “Pine Weave is a part of this journey, where we have learned a lot along the way, not least the importance of being humble to the challenges out there,” Mollberg continues. “We always strive to improve, but we need to avoid a scenario where improvements in one area creates challenges in others, such as biobased materials vs. biodiversity”.
The raw wood material Fjällräven uses to develop the Pine Weave fabric is sourced from a cultivated, certified forest of spruce and pine outside of the brand’s hometown Örnsköldsvik in northern Sweden, never virgin forests. However, the current industrial process doesn’t allow traceable wood to be pulped exclusively on its own. “The pulp used in Pine Weave is mixed up with the total amount of wood going into the pulp-making process. This is referred to as a ‘mass-balance’ approach,” the brand explains. “And although traceability from backpack to tree in a closed system is not possible, it still means Fjällräven is contributing to a growing demand for more traceable, certified wood in those industrial processes.”
Although, the pulp-making process of Pine Weave isn’t completely perfect, the brand believes it’s the best approach at this time. “We are constantly exploring how we can use even more bio-based materials in our products, but we also continually need to improve and find even better ways to source them,” said Mollberg.
The exploration for more bio-based materials is a continued, high-priority effort by Fjällräven. The brand currently divides materials into four categories: excellent (recycled wool, Tencel), good (recycled polyester, traceable wool), OK (cotton, metal buttons), and materials that aren’t used like PFCs, PVCs, and angora wool. Fjällräven has measured its material choices since 2013, and as the brand currently stands, it claims that 60% of its materials, including Pine Weave, fall into the excellent and good categories. with plans for having at least 90% of materials in those two categories in the future (no definitive timing targets have been mentioned by the brand).
“We are eager to explore alternative materials that are spurred by Fjällräven’s focus on sustainability, including recycled materials, the different types of – and uses for – wool, as well as plant-based materials,” said Fjällräven Global Sustainability Director Christiane Dolva in a Q&A with Mollberg.
The Fjällräven Tree-Kånken is expected to release in stores and online on August 16.
If you’re looking for a sustainable outdoor chair to match your new Fjällräven Tree-Kånken, check out this Finisterre x Helinox chair made out of recycled materials.