”This technology and engineering focus is a huge inspiration for us to push on innovation”
On lessons learned from almost two decades in the outdoor industry
January 18, 2023
Who are you?
— I’ve worked for Helly Hansen for 18 years, I’m here in Alicante for the start of The Ocean Race, to which we are a partner. Currently, I’m VP for Ski, Sail, and R&D — my job is to take care of these businesses and make sure that we keep on pushing with innovation.
When it comes to innovation, how have you and the industry developed over these last 18 years when you’ve been part of the company?
— For the industry, we have this challenge that we know we have to do our part to turn around as every other industry has. And for the clothing industry, it’s one of the major areas where we have to change how we’re doing, how we’re producing, how we’re making stuff that lasts, to get away from fast fashion. So, that’s one of the bigger changes where a lot of the focus on product development, and developing technologies have shifted from back to when I started in the industry, how we’re thinking of development today. For Helly Hansen, specifically, we started to really look into sustainability back in 2005-2006 and a lot of different things have seen the light of day through our launches. On the recent side, you might have heard of the Lifa Infinity technology, where we use our proprietary material, Lifa, and make a membrane which is chemical-free. It’s a very future-oriented innovation.
How far have you come in this process as a brand? Are you satisfied yet?
— No. We have done several good steps. Take here on the Ocean Race, where we introduce the OceanBoundRecycledmaterial in the staff uniforms, which is obviously a good thing to do to help prevent plastic to go into the ocean and instead turning it into clothing. But, when you look at the big challenge, going into the future, there’s a lot more work to be done. So, we’re not satisfied — we’re discussing where to put our goals, where to stretch further, and what to focus on.
There are growing concerns about the release of microplastics when working with recycled plastics. Have you done your research properly to be able to reduce it?
— We have an R&D project where we’re investigating this and it’s also one of our criteria when choosing materials, to minimise it, Vedvik explains. It’s one of many areas — chemicals, water consumption, and CO2 emissions — which all need to improve. That’s what we work on in the R&D as well.
The line you present during The Ocean Race is very technically advanced. How long is the process from the first prototype until it reaches the end consumer?
— We’ve had stuff that we’ve worked with for four, even five years. Sometimes, we’re down to 18 months, including ideation and the prototyping, and sometimes somewhere in between before it gets available for most people.
And you mentioned the futural perspective, what do you think will be the key going forward?
— When we make a garment, we are using resources. No matter if it’s new or recycled resources, we want to extend the lifetime so that our stuff last even longer. Already, we’re known for gear that is durable and we have to get away from the products that are not lasting, that get thrown away and move over to good products that last a long, long time. So, that’s the focus going forward, working on longevity, says Vedvik, continuing,
— During the pandemic, a lot of people got more outdoors — because it was the only thing they could do. And it seems like it’s been a boom and a lot of people discovered that actually being outside is healthy and good for you.
— And it’s free! And I think that we’ll see that continuing. What is very exciting when it comes to sailing now is all the innovation and technology around the development of foils, such as the hydrofoils that you see in the Imoca class in The Ocean Race, which is the same as the one being used in (another big sailing competition) America’s Cup. We’re starting to see this coming also on recreational boats, even here in the Nordics and in Sweden, so what is very interesting is that you have this performance engineering but it’s also there to lower the resources it takes to move around on the sea. I think it will transform sailing — and maybe also other types of boating. And, this technology and engineering focus is also a huge inspiration for us to push on innovation when designing the gear.