In the post-internet world it’s hard to keep a secret. Trends which pop-up in the suburbs of faraway cities just take one click or the right photo to become the uniform for fashion forward shoppers across the globe. With this thought in mind it’s something of a miracle that Icelandic Outdoor brand 66° North has managed to remain relatively unknown outside of their Scandinavian home despite a history stretching back near 100 years. To add to the bewilderment it is worth noting that this is not a niche brand in Iceland or a tech focused anomaly – 66° North is a powerhouse in their home country, with 10 stores in Reykjavik alone the stunning truth is that 99% of households in Iceland have at least one article from 66° North.
Outwith Iceland and Denmark however the brand have managed to fly under the radar. Despite being seen on celebrities such as Mel Gibson, Skepta and Jay-Z the brand have focused on improving sustainability, production and quality rather than flexing their outdoor muscle on the global stage. When Nordic Outdoor’s founder Caspar Odqvist began selling 66° North back in 2010 he was one of the brands only UK customers and seeing functional outdoor clothing on the runway of London Fashion Week was a near laughable proposition.
Things are all set to change for 66° North in 2022 however with this year not only seeing their return to the hallowed rails of Nordic Outdoor but the brand will also open their first store out with Iceland or Denmark with a 3,500²ft store on London’s Regent Street. After taking on investment from the investment group which run Chanel and taking on a former Net-a-Porter managing director to oversee their global expansion, the future is looking very bright for this storied Icelandic brand.
Not only do 66° North have the world at their feet when it comes to retail, they also happen to make some of the best outdoor clothing that money can buy. Join us below as we take a closer look at the history of the Reykjavik based brand and find out what makes them so unique.
Keeping Iceland Warm since 1926
The early days of 66° North were purely about creating function. Founder Hans Kristjánsson set out with a single goal, to make protective clothing for the Icelandic fisherman and workers who spent their days braving the elements in the harsh North Atlantic. In this period having the right kit was not a fashion statement or a trend choice, but instead was a matter or life or death.
In a bid to perfect the art of creating garments that would survive the harsh elements the fishermen existed in Hans moved to Norway to learn the skills required to tailor and sew hardwearing protective outdoor kit. With this knowledge securely in the bag he then returned to Iceland and founded Sjóklæðagerð Íslands which would later become 66° North. The name the brand eventually settled on was in reference to the latitudinal line of the Arctic Circle which touches the brands original home in Súgandafjörður.
After seeing initial success with his range of clothing it was only in 1928 that the young brand joined forces with the Icelandic Search and Rescue team to supply their protective kit. It is this collaboration which has been the foundation for some of the brands biggest evolutions; from anoraks initially made with oil-borne Canvas to the modern styles which utilise revolutionary synthetic material.
In the 90 plus years since Hans set out to create functional clothing for fishermen in Iceland the brand has grown to become a cultural icon in Iceland, and the figures are staggering. Along with almost every single household in Iceland owning one piece of 66° North, it was estimated in 2020 that 95% of technical outerwear worn in the country was from the 66° North brand. For these reasons it is incredible that the brand has yet to become a mainstay outwith it’s Scandinavian stronghold.
Circular, In every sense
While sustainability and environmental consciousness has become the buzz around outdoor clothing in the UK over the last five years, it is a concept embedded in the heart of our Scandinavian friends. 66° North understand that the biggest impact that we have on this earth is through manufacturing and distribution – no matter how sustainable we try to make this. Buying a biodegradable jacket every year is not sustainable even with the best intentions, and with that in mind the brand are creating products which are designed to last meaning they will reduce the need for long-term consumption whether bought new or second hand.
The durability of 66° North products can primarily be seen through the textile choices they make and the design philosophy employed. While actively aiming to use recycled, upcycled, biodegradable or organic fibres where possible, the cold hard truth is that function, necessity and longevity come first. As a brand 66° North are open in the fact that they would always prefer to make a garment that will last for decades in the environment it is designed for rather than creating one which is slight more ‘sustainable’ but will break down in the short term.
The action that 66° North is undertaking to become a more sustainable company doesn’t just end with “make more durable clothing” however. As a company they are actively working every avenue to reduce their environmental impact and it is this work which has seen them become one of the world’s only carbon negative companies and Iceland’s first ever B-Corp certified company.
The future of 66° North
Once 99% of households in your home country own one of your pieces the room to grow is a little limited - with this in mind, 66° North find them in a unique position of growing internationally as a brand while also looking to shrink their environmental impact.
The brand new 66° North London Flagship store is undoubtably a statement of intent. With over 90 years of history in the bank and the support of some pretty big names in the world of fashion, the brand have made the move to open their first ever store outwith Iceland or Denmark. Hailed as the new European flagship store the new location on Regent Street will introduce a whole new audience to the weather beating wares of this Icelandic Powerhouse. Not only that but the brand are back in bed with us here at Nordic Outdoor and our new Covent Garden store is stocked to the rafters with Autumn Winter goodness.
With new stores and celebrity endorsements from the likes of Skepta and Jay-Z it would be natural to assume that the 66° North range is about to get a whole lot bigger. The truth however is quite the opposite – instead of making more and more things to chase new customers the brand has looked internally at what they can improve, reduce and reinvent to solve the problems faced by customers across the globe. Since 2018 the brand has reduced their style count by 52% and now their attention is focused on classic ranges such as Tindur, Kaldi, Vatnajokull and Jokla.
Where can I buy 66° North in the UK
With the new Autumn Winter range now landed at Nordic Outdoor the good news is that we have plenty to choose from for you fans of Icelandic Outdoor Goodness. You can shop 66° North Mens Clothing here and the range of 66° North Womens Clothing here. The brand is also now available instore in Edinburgh, Keswick and our newest store in London’s Covent Garden.
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