"I think we need to treat sustainability as something we keep close to our hearts, not just a passing trend."

"I think we need to treat sustainability as something we keep close to our hearts, not just a passing trend."

Sandqvist brings the inspo from Nordic landscapes to leather bags

An experimental design project by three childhood friends — Anton, Daniel, and Sebastian — who looked for creating the perfect bag inspired by Nordic landscapes. Since 2004, SANDQVIST is a classic Swedish brand based in Stockholm with a strong foundation on sustainability.

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With just an industrial sewing machine in hands, they came up with a prototype bag that was a must-have among their friends. Sandqvist then began to design ultra functional, well-crafted & environment driven bags, values that were natural for the cofounders.

Using only leather from tanneries well-rated by the Leather Working Group — an organization dedicated to environmentally friendly leather industry — the brand gets u close to nature in every way & form.

This Swedish classic is showing that simple & design-led leather bags are timeless and last through every adventure. To find out more about their inspirations, we asked a few questions to Sebastian Westin, co-founder & Creative Director @ Sandqvist.

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You guys stated on your website that the three founders believe in Swedish values, such as “sustainability and care for the environment, high-quality designs, and uncompromising functionality.” How difficult is it to get to this place?  

The values stated come from our upbringing, growing up in a small village, close to nature, and with an “everything can be fixed” attitude. In the beginning of Sandqvist's journey, we designed some really minimalistic and easy to repair bags mostly because we didn’t know how to do it any other way and that became the start of everything. Later, we were able to add new recycled more sustainable fabrics, which gave the bags the design they have today.

Sandqvist works with materials, such as leather, we would like to know what does it mean for you to work with such a long-lasting material, so classic but still with so many possible future paths within the design, the cuts, the colors or the uses of it?

The debate about leather and other animalic fabrics is something we have always taken seriously, we use hides from Scandinavian cattle and all leather comes from industrial waste. Well treated leather can be used for a very long time and can be classical, contemporary, and trendy. We always aim to improve ourselves: at the moment, we are researching leather from post-industry waste.

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All leather used by Sandqvist comes from tanneries well-rated for their environmental work by the Leather Working Group. Why are other brands delaying to move forward and make choices like this? What are the main issues?

One of the issues is that the leather industry can be unethical and negative, so in that case, we decided quite early to dig deep into this subject and try to find the best animal and environmentally friendly ways to work.

As I mentioned, if we don’t make responsible choices both people and animals will suffer for it. Working closely with Leather Working Group is a good start, but we still have a lot more work to do.

Do you believe that we are moving towards greater awareness of the sustainable use of materials?

I hope so. I’ve seen some scary stuff with animal care, that’s why we only use hides from Scandinavian cattle, but I see this as a bigger issue, such as food production or farming, not just fashion. The way we use the planet today is insane, but there’s hope and I can definitely see a change in people.

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We heard that you guys are connected with The Swedish Fashion Ethical Charter. What do you think is a powerful base to start this process and to achieve this common awareness about honest social environments?

I love what The Swedish Fashion Counsel and similar organizations do when taking a stand ethically and environmentally, I think we need to treat the subject as something we keep close to our hearts, not just a passing trend or something people & brands talk about for a shorter moment of time. 

I always claim that subjects like this need to come from the core of the brand, from the founders and from the people working with it. It needs to be authentic. I sincerely hope my colleagues and friends discuss and debate the matter outside of work and bring it into everyday life, only then a real change can happen.

How do you create bags for and influenced by this Scandinavian aesthetic & Nordics landscapes? 

All our inspiration comes from Nordic landscapes, inspiring colors, fabrics, functionality, and quality. We always try to stay true to our values, not doing poser bags or design, we want to create that good gut feeling when showing the design and the only way of doing it is to design with the vast landscapes, the wild rivers and the deep forests in mind. The aesthetic form can still be on point, trendy, long-lasting, and timeless, at Sandqvist there is a never-ending cycle of ideas and inspiration.

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You guys started back in 2004 and clearly creating bags in the past involved different ways, mostly in form & function. What does it mean season after season? 

It all began with three friends who had the idea to make the best bag possible. We drew our designs using pencil and paper, produced in small scale and tried to sell the product the best way we could. Today we have grown into a brand with huge talent and expertise, such as a designer duo, a production and sustainability team, a sales team with buyers, a supply team, a marketing team, and much more.

I hope we will never forget the heart and soul from where we came in the beginning, 16 years ago. I never want to get lazy and never want us to forget the DIY/punk vibe we had back in the beginning and I hope that in every season our design, fabric choices, product quality, and self-expression can evolve.

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The Spring/Summer 2020 collection was defined as "an expression of fun and the versatility of color". What led you to choose working with so many colors this season? 

We made an abstract print based on Närke (Neeric), a region in Sweden where Daniel, Anton and I grew up. It's a tribute to home, to the long summer nights spent riding mopeds on gravel roads, to snowy hills in winter. We always try to push ourselves, to challenge the aesthetic aspect in form, function, and color. Colors are popping in the Spring/Summer 2020 collection, super bold mixed with spring sophistication in a vague pastel.

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Do you have a list of top 5 bags of all times made by Sandqvist?

The most functional, practical, and the best bag in my opinion is definitely the backpack. I have listed my top three Sandqvist backpacks here:

→ The Algot backpack, a water-resistant backpack made of recycled polyester. It’s the perfect bag for going from home to work in the rain, it’s a great sized bag with a shoe compartment. I use it as an everyday bag with gym clothes and running shoes.

→ Another favorite is Hans, but unfortunately we don’t have that in stock anymore. It reminds me of an era of DIY and hard working day and nights. The bag turned out to be a success for us around 2012-2014.

→ Back in 2014 we created a small lightweight bag series and we named each one of the bags after famous astronauts, such as Neil, Sally, and Buzz. The Neil backpack was a real beauty, but very old school and minimalistic. In the Spring/Summer 2020 collection we launched a new lightweight series, this time made with a 100% recycled nylon ripstop with a lot of functionality and an exciting transforming design. 

More on the craft of [𝐦𝐞𝐭𝐜𝐡𝐚 𝐨𝐫𝐢𝐠𝐢𝐧𝐚𝐥𝐬] here.