Ellinor Byström’s tape measure hangs around her neck. She’s busy ‘problem solving’ as she calls it. By problem solving, she means turning a designer’s vision for a new jacket, pair of trousers or shirt into an actual product. And a product that fits well.
Ellinor is one of three pattern makers that work in-house at our international office in Sweden. She’s the youngest member of the team, but is brimming with ideas and new techniques. Her colleagues are Helena Nyman and Helena Waclaw. Together they have 60 years’ experience in cutting fabric. And they know a thing or two about creating a good fit.
“If the designers are the creators and visionaries, then we’re the ingenious mathematicians and problem solvers.”
And problem solvers they are indeed.
“A winter parka with padding and pockets can be made from up to 80 different pieces of fabric,” says Helena Nyman, “and they all have to come together as a whole. Not many people realise that.”
But it’s not just the sheer number of parts that requires maths-genius problem solving skills. The real challenge is in creating as little waste as possible. We have a commitment to minimising our impact on the environment here at Fjällräven so throwing away reams of fabrics is never going to be part of our plan.
So when Helena has to make these 80 parts fit together to produce that parka, she also has to think about using the fabric as efficiently as possible – basically, with as few gaps between the pieces as she can.
“We don’t want spill. Spill means we have to purchase unnecessary amounts of material and this affects both the price of our products and the environment,” says Helena Waclaw.
Aside from numerical skills, a pattern maker needs to be a good communicator, particularly when speaking to designers. This is why we choose to do our pattern making in-house. Of course visiting factories for face-to-face communication with our suppliers is still important, and something we continue to do. But having the competence in-house means we can control our garments’ outcomes more closely.
This is particularly important when working with G-1000, perhaps our most recognisable material. “G-1000 is a fantastic material for outdoor clothing, but it requires a lot from a pattern maker, as it doesn’t give or stretch at all,” says Helena Nyman.
This is where experience and close vicinity to the designers comes in. “We know how to work with G-1000. We know its characteristics. So we can experiment and combine it with other materials to create garments with new features.”
It’s this constant communication, will to improve, work with new materials and new techniques and get ahead of developments within the branch that lead to the development of Curved Fit trousers.
At Fjällräven, we’re known for producing great fitting, functional trekking trousers. And we have a lot of different types – because there are loads of different body shapes. So curved fit was just an extension of this. To design trousers for even more body shapes. Curved Fit is especially for women who want a good fit at the waist with a little more room over the hips and thighs.
After more than 30 years as a pattern maker, it’s this element of development and improvement that makes the job both fun and challenging for Helena Nyman. But there’s also a level of personal satisfaction that drives her on.
“When the new Expedition Down Parka No. 1 won a gold medal at the ISPO awards last winter, it was amazing. But I get just as happy when I see one of ‘my’ garments sitting well on someone walking past, when I’m out and about, and I notice just how well it fits.”
Think about Helena, Helena and Ellinor the next time you put on a pair of comfy Keb trousers or a cosy Greenland parka. It’s because of them that they fit you just the way you want them to.