The Birth of an Icon: Our Greenland Story

Posted by Ettienne Montzka-Caceres on

In 1968 a 32-year-old Åke Nordin produced his first Fjällräven jacket. He called it the Greenland Jacket. It was made with his new G-1000 material (“G” standing for Greenland) that was waxed with his own wax, Greenland Wax. But to understand why Åke created this jacket and what the connection to Greenland was, we need to go back two years.

Fjällräven founder, Åke Nordin

It’s 1966. Science, both fictitious and real, is a hot topic. Governments everywhere are sending scientists on research missions, leaving no part of the world unexplored. Greenland, with its vast glaciers and challenging landscape is the destination for a Scandinavian group of alpinists and researchers. The team needs gear – tents, backpacks, trousers, jackets. Industrious Fjällräven founder, Åke Nordin, offers his aluminium-framed backpacks and his new Thermo tents. He doesn’t have any clothing to contribute, so the team relies on the materials of the time, boiled wool and leather.

The mission is a success. The group return home armed with extensive studies of Greenland’s glaciers. But their clothing hadn’t been up to the job. It had been heavy, slow drying and lacking resistance to the harsh Greenland climate.

Rather than see a problem, Åke saw a challenge. Could he create the perfect all-round outdoor adventure jacket? A jacket that kept you warm and dry; that wouldn’t wear out or weigh you down.

A material quickly presented itself. It was a material Åke had experimented with before when creating his tents. He’d originally ruled it out. But with some tweaking and treatment, it could work as jacket material.

Åke went back to the drawing board. He tested a range of materials and impregnations. But Åke was stumped. But then he had a brainwave. In his youth, Åke and his friends had tried ski jumping. They’d spend many hours hanging out at the huge Swoosh-shaped slope in Örnsköldsvik (his home town on Sweden’s High Coast) and to avoid freezing their behinds off, they waxed the backs of their trousers to keep the snow out, their trousers dry and their behinds warm.

Åke used this idea to develop Greenland Wax. And this wax offered that wind and water resistance he was looking for. It even improved the material’s durability.

With the material and impregnation sorted, he then set about using creating his perfect outdoor jacket, complete with practical pockets and a relaxed, loose fit. In continued honour to the research mission that inspired it, Åke called this jacket the Greenland Jacket.

The rest is history. The Greenland Jacket, launched in 1968, went on to enable a whole generation of nature lovers to spend more time outdoors. It’s now one of our most iconic products, second only to our Kånken backpack.

Now, 40 years after it’s creation we’ve revised the fit, switched to more eco-friendly materials and modern production techniques and created our Greenland Updated collection. But the same simple love for adventures, large and small, remains.

Text: Sarah Benton

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