How Fjällräven Is Moving Beyond Backpacks to Adventure-Leisure

Now you can dress like you’re about to go on a camping trip—all the time.

America is experiencing a wave of outdoorsiness. Our conception of fitness isn’t limited to obtaining a CrossFit membership and doing infinite squats. It’s about being active, climbing mountains, proving a certain effective physical mastery of the world around you.  Check out #makeadventure on Instagram, or take a look at the Outdoor Foundation’s statistics — Americans went on 603 million hikes in 2013,  with an average of 18 outings per hiker. There were 36.22 million U.S. hikers in 2014, up 25 percent from 2006.

Which is why it makes a kind of sense that nestled under the High Line on the far western terminus of 14th Street in a volcanic hotspot of New York City real estate there is now a temple to hiking, canoeing, and the natural world in general. This is the new flagship store of the Swedish brand Fjällräven, (named after the arctic fox) heretofore known for its brightly colored backpacks bedecking Williamsburg residents and their tiny offspring, in tinier backpacks.

The brand was founded in 1960 on the strength of its original rucksack, but Fjällräven is pushing beyond bags. There’s an entire wall of Kånken, the name of the now-ubiquitous backpacks first released in 1978, as soon as you enter store. It’s a gridded rainbow of colors fit for either an upstate expedition or the first day of Park Slope elementary school. The rest of the space, however, is taken over by visions of outdoor splendor—TV screens looping visions of Nordic lakes; an enormous canoe and crossed paddles suspended from the industrial ceiling; a Best Made-like display of variously sized axes swathed in leather cases. Camping chairs are strewn across the floor like an abandoned Everest summit attempt.

The brand’s fall/winter 2015 release matches the al fresco mood of the store. There are athletic Drev trousers mounted on wooden shelves on the wall, distressed wood coffee tables piled with thick sweaters, and a full rack of sleeping bags, called “Move With” because the goose down and feather-filled cocoon is flexible enough to be able to shift around in at night.

It would be a simple task to outfit yourself for a camping trip solely with a trip to Fjällräven Meatpacking. But why save the immaculately constructed clothes for a special occasion? If we’ve already adjusted to the sartorial standards of athleisure, wearing gym clothes everywhere but the gym, it’s an easy enough jump to adventure-leisure. The height of fashion is dressing for an extended duration of Bear Gryllsian forest survival even when you’re just walking to the grocery store.

Fjällräven makes the adventure-leisure trend seem not just possible but inevitable. The Sarek Torso Sweater melds a knit pullover with a down vest by altering the brand’s proprietary “G-1000” fabric (65 percent polyester, 35 percent cotton) over the chest and elbows. For added wind resistance, the fabric is also layered with wax. The Ovik 3 in 1 Jacket  is similarly composed of waxed G-1000. Though the colors aren’t going to surprise anyone—they seem selected for autumnal camouflage—the Ovik is comfortably heavy duty without being bulky. In fact, it’s surprisingly slim.

Pants form the centerpiece of the brand’s new offerings. They are exercises in adventure-leisure. The Drev Trousers are equipped with stretch fabric panels on the hips and behind the knees. There’s an inner mobile phone pocket, as well as a devoted multi-tool pouch. The concept behind the piece is listed as “hunting,” but perhaps we could amend that to “urban foraging.” Crouching to gather mushrooms in Prospect Park gets messy, after all. 

Fjällräven has as many kinds of pants as Ikea does bookshelves. The Keb Trousers are “intended for alpine trekking” with colored panels of G-1000 running down the fronts of the legs and ventilation slots unzipping from knee to hip. The Vidda Pro Trousers are similarly meant for “active use in forests and fields,” though their profusion of pockets, including devoted spots for a map and an axe, brings to mind an extremely stylish skater constructing a half pipe in the woods.

If the Swedish company intends to take over New York, it has only to remain open during what already promises to be a glum, wet winter. Its new flagship is a light in that incipient darkness—it will prepare you, whether for an alpine jaunt or just scaling mounting snowbanks. The two aren’t so different, after all.

On the sidewalk outside the store, two visitors reclined on a pair of neon-red Adirondack chairs next to a rack of Kånken backpacks in the dull evening sheen of the Meatpacking District, the High Line overhead casting dark shadows. Squinting, it could have a misty forest cliff in the actual outdoors.

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