The Industry Interview: Fredrik Ekström, creative director, Tretorn
Fredrik Ekström is not only Tretorn’s creative director, he is also co-founder of the brand’s "Eco-Essentials" project. He talks through what the brand is all about, and how sustainability it at the heart of what they do
When was the Tretorn brand first established and what is it best known for?
Tretorn began in 1891 producing protective rubber boots for farmers. The brand expanded into sneakers in 1900 and tennis balls 1902. It’s a brand that has been in the business for over 128 years, and is a culture bearer for Scandinavian minimalistic design. The brand is also one of the best kept secrets in the industry. When looking into our archives we can find everyone from Queen Elizabeth and Swedish royalty wearing Tretorn, to Elvis Presley, Aretha Franklin and Kanye West. A lot has changed over the last 128 years, but Tretorn are still dedicated to creating premium protective wear.
What else has been important in the brand’s history?
In the 1960’s and 70’s the brand reached a cult status by creating the official Olympic shoe for the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. It also gained a huge following after becoming the tennis shoe of choice, worn on and off the court by the leading world players of the time including Björn Borg and Martina Navratilova.
What’s really driven the business?
Tretorn has always been an innovation driven brand. Pushing the boundaries of what’s possible within sports and outdoor. Protection from the Scandinavian weather has driven the business of rainwear and rubber boots, and the love of sports has been the core to develop high end tennis shoes and balls.
What makes Tretorn such as sustainable fashion brand?
We launched the "Eco-Essentials" range as a mind set for the future, looking back over the brands previous 128 years and thinking about the direction we need to go in for the next 128 years. Starting in 2016, we have now transformed 80% of our outerwear into eco-friendly recycled and recyclable garments. As of February 2019, 100% of our sneakers will be eco-friendly. As part of the the Eco-Essentials range, we have a wide range of projects for various styles, these include the "Leftover Project", the "Ghost Net Project" and the 100% degradable "Bio Plant Jacket".
Are the stores buying in to your sustainability stance?
The stores and the consumer buy into the Tretorn philosophy around sustainable fashion, a hot topic across the industry and the marketplace. Top UK accounts currently include Harvey Nichols, John Lewis, Top Man, Oi Polloi, Country Attire and Anthropologie. The idea is to now grow our wholesale business, and the UK is our most important market after Sweden.
Is Tretorn leading the way in eco-friendly products then?
All of us need to change how we interact with nature and find a more innovative approach of using resources. At Tretorn, we don’t look at innovation only as what we make, but also how we make it and why we use our resources in the way we do. Our mission is to be an inspiration and a role model for how businesses can interact with nature and create a more circular process. We are inspired by nature’s own ecosystem and we strongly believe in a process where nothing should go to waste. Products should last long, be reused and eventually repaired and recycled. We have also found new ways to look upon high quality waste as an opportunity, a resource to be harvested and developed into a circular process, while slowly eliminating the very concept of waste.
"Our mission is to be an inspiration and a role model for how businesses can interact with nature and create a more circular process."
What else can be done to make clothing and footwear that is sensitive to the environment?
We need to start to look upon waste as a resource and find new ways to incorporate this into our new product development. Also, make the products recyclable and reusable. Creating garments from one single piece of fabric, like our own ocean shell material made from recycled ocean waste, the three layers and membranes are allmade from the same recycled net – making the jacket recyclable again.
Can you give some examples of particular products and what makes them so sustainable?
The "Rain Jacket From The Sea" is a parka style collection, sprung from the "Ghost Net Project", based on a passion for responsible manufacturing and a desire to explore if we could change how we interact with the environment and use discarded fishing nets as a new kind of resource to make high quality rainwear. The jackets are woven in regenerated nylon from discarded fishing nets. It is a strong constructed fabric with a rip-stop structure and laminated for waterproofness and breathability. And, of course, it is free from fluorocarbons, phthalates and PVC.
What else can we expect from Tretorn this year?
We’re expanding the range for AW19 with a new line of bags and waterproof sneakers. We also have a very strong new eco concept called SAREK. It’s a nature reserve in Sweden where we will be working with a true icon of UK design to create a new presence of the brand. We are also re-launching our retro Olympic sneaker from Mexico ‘68 to coincide with the summer Olympics in Tokyo.