Erik Blomberg is product developer and designer for Fenix Outdoor, with brands such as Fjällräven and Tierra. When he read in the newspapers that a large amount of Swedish wool was wasted, he wanted to make a difference. As wool is a perfect material for sustainable outdoor products, Erik started a project for using Swedish wool in the company. It was not that easy at first, but with innovation and creative thinking most problems were solved.
Fenix Outdoor produces clothing and equipment for all sorts of outdoor activities. Their mission is to inspire the world to walk with nature and their vision is to be the most premium and sustainable global outdoor brand. They aim for a sustainable production where non-renewable materials are replaced with renewable ones and to recycle, reuse and reduce materials.
The company has a long tradition of using wool, but in 2016 they didn’t use any Swedish wool at all – though they wanted to. The problem was that everybody said it was impossible, as the wool was of too uneven quality, coarse, dirty, etc. Now they have worked with 40 tonnes of Swedish wool in three different products. The secret is to work with the material in the product development and to adapt the product – not the fibre!
One project was to use Swedish wool from the newly developed Jämtland sheep breed (with a wool type similar to merino) in knitwear. It was successful but didn’t increase the use of renewable materials as merino wool was exchanged with local fibres. So they started to develop a new product where Swedish waste wool could replace plastic foam in backpacks. For this product they used needle punched and pressed wool in different colors from different breeds. (So uneven and coarse quality was not a big problem).
They also developed a wool padding for jackets. This was challenging at first but in the long run Swedish wool turned out to be very good for padding as it has some extra stiffness. And the users like wool padding because they don’t need to change clothes as often as with polyester padding!
The next step will be to single out the wool with best qualities and add more value to it by making both knitted and woven fabrics. The lower quality wool can be used in backpacks and padding. Here a system for classification of Swedish wool would be needed. Fenix Outdoor also wants to continue to build and support a more local wool industry.
Right now the company has access to enough wool but they want to buy more in the future. There are good scouring facilities in Sweden, but we could need other companies processing after scouring and that could be done in the Baltic area!