Schlep back to school, back to the cubicle, or anywhere life takes you with Fjällräven’s new line of 100 percent recycled-polyester backpacks. Available in 12 monochromatic colors, each carryall comprises materials derived from 11 post-consumer plastic bottles (nine for the mini). Fjällräven has encountered flak before for its use of perfluorooctanoic acid in its outerwear, but the “Re-Kånke” bags, while still weather-resistant, are described as mercifully PFC-free. The Swedish firm says it was able to create three types of textile—the backpacks’ main fabric, their webbing, and the lining—from a single yarn. To give them their vibrant hues, Fjällräven turned to SpinDye, a coloring process that claims to use far less water, chemicals, and energy than conventional dyeing techniques.
Fjällräven says that the Re-Kånken grew from a desire to create an version of the firm’s quintessential daypack with as little environmental impact as possible.
“Obviously we love our iconic Kånken backpack,” Henrik Andersson, head of innovation and design at Fjällräven, told Ecouterre. “Design-wise, it is as simple, functional and versatile as we want our products to be. We have a habit though of challenging ourselves to improve and make things better, whether it’s on a functionality level or in this case from a sustainability angle. We do this even with products we consider to be close to perfect.”
Rejiggering the original wasn’t as simple as substituting one fabric for another, however.
“For us it is more an issue of ensuring the same, or close to same, performance and durability when switching to recycled fabrics,” Andersson explained. “For Re-Kånken, we had to increase the weight of the pack a bit to ensure durability, though at 395 grams it is still considered to be a lightweight backpack.”
Still, he’s optimistic that recycled polyester will eventually supplant their virgin counterparts.
“Sometimes we are using virgin fibers because we think a switch would not meet our standards in performance, but we always do what we can to work through those obstacles,” he said. “It may take some time, but in the future we do hope to replace nylon with recycled plastic in all of our backpacks.”