— The only way to be sustainable is to close down the brand and go outdoors and just not do anything.
Gonz Ferraro, CEO of Klättermusen, has a no—frills attitude towards his brand ethos. When he took over the iconic Swedish outdoor brand two years ago, he wanted to honour the brand’s sustainability heritage.
— Anytime we make a product we are having a negative impact on the planet. Therefore, if we are going to do it, we wanna make sure we only do the product worth making, and make sure that it is the most durable. The most sustainable product is the one that can last a very long time.
Gonz is an unlikely ambassador for the Swedish outdoors. He is a young Argentinian, married to a Turkish woman, and he is now dividing his time between London, Stockholm, and Åre, where the company headquarters are. He came across Klättermusen while working in Asia. During a mountaineering expedition he discovered how technical and re-search—intensive the world of outdoor gear was. And when studying the matter further, he came across this ”small Swedish company toiling away in near complete silence for 40years.”
It was Klättermusen.
— The Skunkworks of the outdoor equipment world!
Klättermusen was founded in Sweden in 1975 by a group of dedicated mountaineers, led by Peter Askulv, during an era when social responsibility and environmental awareness was on the rise in Scandinavia. The founders set out to create the most durable, reliable and sustainable equipment possible. In the decades that followed, the brand gained a cult following in Asia, while other outdoor brands got a foothold on the Nordic market.
— The founders were determined to go a different way than the businesses of the day and let creation steer business rather than the other way around, says Gonz, who even today is careful to distinguish Klättermusen’s merchandise as ”equipment” rather than clothes.
Together with a group of investors, Gonz took over the brand two years ago, and has since worked to refine it — quite silently, in true Klättermusen manner. But now it’s time to start moving out of the shadows, as the brand is launching itself more and more, both to the outdoor community and to more fashion oriented retail outlets.
— We’ve always done the same thing. Functional and sustainable mountaineering equipment. And we’ve seen how fashion stores appreciate the equipment, the aesthetics, and the craftsmanship — all the things that makes us appealing and different. The global customer today is not differentiating between outdoor, fashion and tailoring. Classifying stores as fashion or outdoor is wrong.
What does sustainability mean for Klättermusen?
— It starts with designing. If you design something that is trend-driven, then sustainability is an afterthought. Whereas if it’s engrained in the product development, then we can always ask ourselves: how can we evolve a jacket to be more sustainable than before?
As makers of equipment, your product has to be highly functional. Does that interfere with it also being highly sustainable?
— There is a common misconception that if a functional product is sustainable, it is therefore not as functional. That is fundamentally wrong, and it stabs at the core of our brand ethos: maximum safety, minimum impact. We try to make all equipment as durable as an ice axe. Durable equipment isn’t just safer, it’s more sustainable since it isn’t replaced after a season or two. And just like with other kinds of tools, maintenance and service of the equipment is considered to extend the lifetime of the equipment as far as possible.
But to make these products must affect the bottom line?
— Yes. We estimate that roughly about 37 percent of our product cost are based on making more sustainable choices. The past two years we’ve invested 20 percent of our sales in developing sustainable materials. That is truly different from most brands. It is something we are very proud of and more customers appreciate it.
Do you still see yourselves as a Scandinavian brand?
— Absolutely. We are the quintessential Swedish brand — born in the 70s, out of a growing concern for the environment, by a man who was on ”pappa leave”. You can’t get more Scandinavian than that!