Especially the Swedish summer cabin lifestyle can be mentioned to be a trending theme concerning the design and astehtic of many outdoor collections. Here's, a glimpse into this rugged and unwittingly on-trend world and the Scandinavian brands catering to it.
As the grass changes from snow-soaked sludge to new-growth green, Swedes fling on their backpacks and head to their summer cabins to immerse themselves in birdsong, trees and the midnight sun. Choosing to hang out in a timber hut for weeks on end–in many cases without running water, electricity or modern WC facilities–might seem a little odd to the uninitiated. But this off-grid lifestyle holds more appeal than ever, even to non-Swedes, as it’s an antidote to the speed of modern life.
Martin Bundock, a Stockholm-based Englishman and owner of creative communications agency A.W.B, is a passionate devotee. “Swedish cabin life was something I immediately wanted to be part of –a place to relax on lazy summer days, bathing in the lake, barbecuing wild boar sausages and reading books on the veranda,” he enthuses.
The drawers in Bundock’s countryside retreat, a 1950s sports cottage an hour outside Stockholm, are full of old jeans, sneakers and work shirts. “My own past has become a vintage uniform of choice throughout the season,” he says. But there are modern essentials he can’t do without, such as Tretorn’s Pu Parka, made sustainably from recycled polyester derived from PET bottles. Environmentally friendly outdoor gear, a category on the rise in Scandinavia and beyond, feels particularly apt when worn among trees.
THE CABIN-FRIENDLY MARRIAGE OF URBAN AND OUTDOOR
Not every cabin dweller abandons city life entirely during the summer months, and it’s easier than ever to develop a wardrobe that transitions between both environments. Not only have materials and finishes advanced further into the technical field, but the practical outdoor sensibility has crept into the fashion sphere as well.
Swedish accessories brand Sandqvist’s Urban Outdoor range has been part of the repertoire for some time, but new features are developed whenever a particular need is flagged up. Sandqvist co-founder Sebastian Westin, an avid outdoor enthusiast since childhood, realized the necessity for an extra lined pocket one summer while spending time in his cabin. “I put down my old cotton bag on the edge of some marshland to go fly fishing, and when I got back parts of it had sunk into the ground, killing my phone,” says Westin.
Demand for functional bags is on the up, and Westin believes this is due to the fact that people’s perception of luxury has been redefined. “Today, luxury is about getting closer to nature and having the time to relax with friends and family in the outdoors,” he observes. “With this in mind, we’re trying to develop practical, multifunctional products in durable and sustainable materials.”
Some of Sandqvist’s trendiest designs fit surprisingly well in the wild. “Our bum bag is sold in the coolest stores to hip types, but it’s also ideal for me when I go fly fishing. I believe the multi-use idea is a sign of our sustainable times–why buy several bags when a single one can work in any setting?”
Today luxury is about getting closer to nature and having the time to relax [...] in the outdoors."
JEANS WITH A FLAVOR OF THE WILD
Hardwearing jeans are made for cabin life, and while paint-stained castoffs have a definite place in this rugged environment, there’s no better place to break in a pair of raw denims–the odd grass stain will only add to the patina, and a rusty hammer would make for quite some back pocket fade mark, while the strenuous practice of chopping wood will help develop defined whiskers.
Anton Olsson, co-founder of Swedish denim brand Sarva, explored to what degree the outdoors can add character to raw jeans via an experiment for his previous label, Denim Demon. As part of the 2010 project, seven Sami people were given a pair of raw jeans to break in for six months (no washing allowed). “All the men worked in different outdoor fields, and we asked them to wear the jeans in their daily life in the woods, on the fells and, of course–while reindeer herding,” says Olsson.
The results were as varied as the men’s adventures. Three of the best broken-in pairs were copied and sold, including the jeans of Per-Henrik, a thirtysomething living in the tiny Swedish village of Jänsmässholmen. “Per-Henrik shot an elk during the hunting season,” says Olsson. “He dealt with the animal later that night, drenching his jeans in blood. A quick rinse improved the smell, a bit at least, and softened the stain.”
Drawing on his own Sami-heritage, Olsson’s new brainchild Sarva is also tied to the culture of the indigenous people of Scandinavia. Each product is made sustainably in factories across Sweden. “The Sami people have always lived in harmony with the wildlife of northern Scandinavia, and since it’s such an important part of our lives it’s always been obvious for us to try to be as sustainable as possible, using organic materials and producing locally,” says Olsson.
Riekte, a straight jean with a reindeer leather patch, is the brand’s season-less hero product. It’s handcrafted from 14 oz. Japanese selvedge fabric, making it durable enough for most escapades.
Elsewhere, Dr. Denim has introduced raw jeans for the first time, as a nod to the slow fashion movement and the joy of wearing and living with a pair of jeans for a long time–perhaps while pottering about in a cabin. The range, brought out for f/w ’18, includes the selvedge men’s jean Gus and a classic jacket in the same fabric.
USHER IN THE RAINBUSTERS
Swedish summers can be wet, very wet, which might explain why so many Scandinavian raingear brands have surfaced in the past few years. The premise of native player Stutterheim, founded in 2010, is to offer handcrafted outdoor garments that protect from downpours and look good in urban settings, too. The brand’s original rubberized and coated cotton fabrics are still key, but new finishes are introduced occasionally. For s/s ’18, a lighter material with a denim structure joined the Stutterheim family.
Danish brand Rains, founded in 2012 and headquartered in Aarhus, has cornered the same urban outdoor end of the market, reinterpreting the classic rubber raincoat using a blend of traditional methods and innovative techniques. The recently developed distortion of stripes, seen in the s/s ’18 collection, has been achieved via a vinyl transfer print. The special dye used in the process ensures that there’s no sticky surface residue. As for the range itself, Rains’ line of moisture-busting bags and accessories keeps growing.
Packmack, another Danish contender that has expanded considerably since its launch a few seasons ago, serves up various cabin-appropriate packable jackets including a zip-up parka and a pop-over style. Every piece features waterproof zips, sealed seams, reflective logos and a built-in pocket in which to pack the garment. The same waterproof fabric is used across the range to minimize waste, and the jackets are mostly unisex.
Aesthetically, it’s all about versatility. “Our designs bridge the gap between active sportswear and a more casual sensibility, mixed with a hint of tailoring,” says Packmack co-founder and designer Trine Rosenkjaer. “The jackets work in any environment, and we really enjoy the fact that the brand translates in so many different ways.”
No one enters summer cabin territory without a pair of wellies. They’ll keep your feet dry on marshy walks but, perhaps more importantly, they’ll provide protection from poisonous vipers (bylined author’s been bitten twice. Tip: stamp occasionally as you walk through the forest and they should take the hint and slither away).
Household name Tretorn is pushing the boundaries of rubber footwear, bringing out new variations of the classic welly as well as hybrids that marry urban sensibility with the practicality the countryside calls for. Two of the latest styles are the waterproof ankle boots Arch and Sphere. These examples happen to be from the f/w ’18 collection, and they’re lined for winter use, but, as Martin Bundock rightly points out: “Midsummer in Sweden can be as cold as Christmas.”
WRAPPING UP IN THE SWEDISH SUMMER
Sun-starved Swedes are intent on extracting every little fragment of the short summer, staying outdoors well into the night to lap up the midnight sun. “I live in the countryside all year round and for me, the outdoor season starts in spring and extends well into autumn,” says Mats Andersson, founder and designer of Swedish denim brand Indigofera Prima. “The connection to the outdoors is my way of life. But the Scandinavian summer is unpredictable and don’t expect it to be warm… so, the light clothing associated with the season doesn’t always apply, and this is where knits and cozy flannel shirts come into the picture, and, perhaps most importantly–blankets.”
It may be a dying tradition, but blanket craft was once well established in Scandinavia. In the 1950s, every Volvo car was sold with a free blanket, should the vehicle break down in winter. Indigofera Prima is perhaps best known for its artisan selvedge jeans, but distinctive blankets, many of which are designed in collaboration with artists, also form part of each collection. Handcrafted at a small family-owned business in northern Norway using locally sourced wool, the brand is helping to preserve an industry in danger of becoming extinct.
As for other warm countryside staples, woolen knits are ideal as the fiber regulates temperature, and, merino wool in particular is self-cleaning (cabin life and washing machines don’t necessarily go hand in hand). You can even pack some luxe loungewear, a currently buoyant category. Filippa K’s Soft Sport range offers cashmere hoodie and track pant sets for almost every season, while Copenhagen-based sustainable newcomer Carcel crafts its signature tees and trouser-sets from Peruvian baby alpaca wool, employing incarcerated women from the same region.
Meanwhile, Swedish knitwear brand John Sterner, founded by Alexander Stutterheim, recently launched Alvaret–a line of lightweight merino wool pieces brought out as an alternative to the brand’s more sumptuous knits. The budding sustainable brand has its own sheep farm on the Swedish island of Öland–in itself a dream summer destination for many a Swede.
Read more outdoor related content in our current Outdoor Issue.