Words and Photograph by Cynthia Nunes
You see the artic fox on the subway. You see it in college hallways. You can find it in Starbucks. Fjallraven Kanken, the popular backpack with the red and white logo that translates as “The Arctic Fox,” is everywhere. The Kanken backpack has become popular among college students. It has even gained popularity around the world as an iconic and handy Swedish export.
“They are light and comfy. I have five of them in different colors,” says Anamica, a fellow City College student. The Swedish manufacturer Fjallraven hit on something in 1978 when it came up with the idea to create a backpack that is described on its website as, “…simple, stylish, and functional.” The lightweight backpack was originally designed for young Swedish school kids after many seemed to develop back problems because of the heavy loads of books they carried. An old Swedish saying, “Straight backs are happy backs,” inspired the designer.
On the City College campus, students who carry the backpack agree with the saying. Even though the $50-$150 price range makes it a splurge, people will buy them to keep up with a trend. Not only are they trendy but are more practical than other backpacks. When you see them hanging in Urban Outfitters and other retailers, they seem small. But the rectangular shape allows you to stuff a lot in without destroying the shape.
Brianna, a shopper at Urban Outfitters hesitated before buying a second Artic Fox. She complained about her first bag. “It looks great, but I wouldn’t have bought it if I knew it got dirty this quickly. It collects dust easily and shows on light colors.” Yet many people like the backpack’s ecofriendly material made of recycled polyester, G-1000 Eco and traceable wool. It is also made of durable, lightweight Vinylon F.
The Kanken has a large main compartment with a wide opening, two side pockets, a zippered pocket in the front, handle at the top, narrow, supple shoulder straps, a sitting pad in the pocket, and logo that doubles as a reflector. And that helped propel its popularity. The manufacturer likes to promote its environmental work and that’s one reason that the bag was named after the endangered artic fox. It says it is, “honoring the small highly adaptable predator that lives in the Swedish mountains under the harshest conditions.”
The Fjallraven website states that, “Our core mission and driving force has always been, and always will be, to enable and inspire more people to spend time in nature…we don’t chase short-term goals, follow trends or compromise on quality.” Ironically, many people on campus now wear them because they are trending, not because it has anything to do with nature.