Grandma Jacket

At Fjällräven they think about “durability” in two ways: physical and emotional. The story of the “grandma jacket” tells it vividly.

Editor’s note: This article is a part of the Heritage content series, sponsored by Fjällräven. The article was originally published on the Fjällräven blog.

In 1982, a woman named Gerd Dolva purchased a Fjällräven Räven Jacket. As part of the legendary Fjällräven family of jackets, it had a reputation among nature lovers for its ultra-functional and timeless design. Trends may come and go, but for 20 years, Gerd wore the jacket. Year after year, it stuck around. Gerd created many memories while wearing her Räven Jacket, and an emotional connection was forged.

That connection shifted 2002 however, when Gerd gave the jacket to her granddaughter Christiane Dolva Törnberg. You see, Christiane had just started at Fjällräven as the Head of Sustainability. Though the jacket was imbued with treasured moments, Gerd knew it was finally time to hand it down to her beloved granddaughter. Now as its owner, Christiane could make her own memories.

“My grandmother was surprised that she didn’t grow tired of the jacket,” says Christiane, “But she thought it was because she wore it for such a long time and had so many good memories from it. The jacket was a good all-round piece and there was always an occasion to wear it.”

The story of the “grandma jacket” is rather famous at Fjällräven. First and foremost, it’s a charming anecdote about family history and the objects that tell these stories. But for Christiane, and the rest of the team, it taps into one of our core design principles: durability.

“It’s a jacket for spring, summer, and autumn. I love the functionality and the feel of the material. At once, you can feel that it’s been worn for ages, but that it also holds up. It’s aging with grace as well. The buttons, which are my favourite detail, are becoming more beautiful the more worn they get.

For me now, it is impossible to let go of my grandmother’s jacket. Not only because it’s incredibly functional, but because of the nostalgic value that lives in it. She was so proud of handing it over to me, that it feels like I am responsible for a piece of our heritage. It’s fallen on me to ensure that it is used and loved for a long time.”

This feeling of responsibility is echoed in Christiane’s mission to extend the life of all Fjällräven products through durability. And she thinks about durability in terms of physical and emotional longevity

“What good is a garment made with the world’s most physically durable fabric if it feels outdated a year after you buy it? It needs emotional durability to be a garment that you want to keep and use for a long time. Perhaps even pass onto the next generation.”

So, what exactly makes a garment emotionally durable?

According to Christiane, timeless design plays a major role. It ensures a garment is high quality enough to stand the test of time, all the while creating a deep attachment to the wearer. Designing a truly timeless product requires thinking beyond the usual parameters of sustainable design, like material choices and production processes. It means staying well clear of fashion trends, because by definition they represent, “a style that is popular during a particular time.”

In other words, fashionable outdoor wear is the opposite of timeless.

By contrast, Räven Jacket that Christiane’s grandmother handed down to her is a perfect example of timeless outerwear. Suitable for a life divided between nature and civilisation, it’s been a classic since its debut in 1970. Made of Fjällräven G-1000 Eco fabric and organic and recycled materials, it combines durability and practical details in a straightforward design.

Christiane, alongside Fjällräven designers and product developers, are ensuring that every Fjällräven product lasts as long as possible. As the brand has done since the 1960s. With durability at the core of our design policy, Christiane is particularly targeting how to increase the sustainability of garments by decreasing their carbon footprint through longevity. Christiane breaks it down:

“An average jacket has a carbon footprint of about 20 kg CO2 eq. The average Swedish person wears a jacket 140 times. If you divide the carbon footprint by the amount it was worn, you get a measurement of how the carbon footprint was put to good use. But what if you double the number of times a garment was worn? The carbon footprint is halved!”

Striving to create products that become long time favourites confirms the value durability. And, from family history and brand heritage, to durability and longevity, the “grandma jacket” story has a range of significance. Not only to Fjällräven and its fans, but Christiane especially.

“First and foremost, through the memories and experiences embedded in the jacket, I feel like my grandmother is around me at all times. Also, I think wearing it is a welcome (and constant) reminder of the most important factor of sustainability: take care of what you have.”

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