After a night in a Stockholm hotel, Rachel and I jumped into our private taxi to be driven to The Fjallraven headquarters, based just outside the city(although we couldn’t find it on satnav; strange). After a few U-turns, it became clear our driver was also having difficulty. I began to wonder if it was a top Secret base. Eventually, we headed up a drive to a long dark red building and were given an ecstatic welcome by Daniel, who obviously thought we were never coming.
First impressions were really good, we were shown into an area with carefully-positioned table and chairs with a vase of flowers, which looked out on a pond and lovely gardens. Inside, one of the first things I noticed was the beautiful wood everywhere. Each of us put on a pair of slippers provided, leaving our outdoor shoes on a rack (something I must start doing at home). Following a beautiful wooden staircase, we arrived in a light, spacious room in the centre of which was a long elegant wooden table laid ready for lunch. Everything exuded class.
We met the rest of the Academy visitors and sat down to nettle soup, cooked for by their own chef. It was delicious; I was beginning to settle into Swedish living! Our first talk was given very professionally by Christiana on sustainability. It was obvious she cared deeply about her subject, and the Fjallraven brand, as she proudly showed us her grandmother’s coat which had been passed down to her. It looked very similar to the new garments that members of The Fjallraven team were wearing. Timeless and durable; a coat that lasts more than a lifetime definitely ticks the sustainability box.
Christiana went on to tell us that Fjallraven means ‘arctic fox’, so a discreet fox is the company logo on every garment; each made from a leather off-cut. As we enjoyed a cup of wonderful Swedish coffee (I wondered if my husband would notice if I didn’t come home...) we were told that in 1990, Fjallraven funded research programme on the Arctic Fox which is threatened species. The company definitely seems to take its responsibilities seriously.
Merchandising was next. We were split into groups and instructed to fill an empty room, which was set up as a shop floor, with men’s and women’s clothing. Even with our limited knowledge, it wasn’t difficult to make the ‘shop’ look good. It was while merchandising I did a little dance of joy as I founding amongst the clothing many garments specially made for short people. I began making a shopping list.
Next, more delicious food and a camping trip. We were each given a Fjallraven sleeping bag; I chose a Polar down bag, filled with responsibly-sourced down. The tents were pre-pitched (my kind of camping) and a good opportunity to try Fjallraven tents, mats and sleeping bags. Before bed our hosts had a little surprise in store; 26 bikes were lined up and we were off into Stockholm centre. After a death-defying start down a steep hill where, incredibly, no one crashed, we weaved our way past city landmarks. The other road users were very patient if a little bemused. The tour highlight was the 1912 Olympic stadium which happened to be open, so we couldn’t resist a race on the track; what a memorable experience, a truly welcoming city.
Back uphill to bed. I regretted my choice of sleeping bag; when they said polar, they meant it, and as it was mid-May I was boiled in the bag by the morning. There was, however, not a hint of condensation on the tent. The optional outdoor shower was inexperience... I’ll leave it there.
Our final day of workshops kicked off. Fredrick and Michael expertly facilitated a very high level of sessions. These I found extremely interesting, as we learned more about the Fjallraven ethos. A brand which takes seriously its mandate to walk with nature, not conquer it. It impressed me to hear about the Fjallraven Polar, an expedition set up by company founder Arka Nordin to give ordinary people the adventure of a lifetime dog-sledding through Scandinavia. Also the Fjallraven Classic, an expedition anyone can take part in across the world, inclusivity being an important part of the ethos.
The company seems to take a real holistic approach to its staff, visitors, and customers with extremely good, durable products, while also encouraging people into nature. They invite people to walk with them into nature and gives them the tools to make it enjoyable and possible. I came away feeling very privileged to get the chance to visit such a beautiful country, and also extremely impressed by Fjallraven. This leading company takes its responsibilities very seriously.
I tried to miss the plane home by sleeping in, but that didn’t work. Stockholm: I’ll definitely be back.