I can’t believe it’s been a year already, how has it been for you?
I can’t believe it’s been a year either. In fact, I can’t believe that it’s been almost three years since we launched in 2013. Back then we had six products, this year we’ll have 19. We’ve been busy.
You released in October 2015, so it’s not been quite a year. Any reason for bringing the month forward?
In the previous three years we’ve always aspired to a September launch for our winter range, but various factors have conspired to cause slippage into October on each occasion. So achieving a September launch this year is simply accomplishing what we’ve always intended.
And how was it for Jöttnar? Have you seen an increase in activity from previous years?
Growth has been exponential year on year and 2015/16 has continued this. It’s obviously gratifying, but it’s been a fascinating and absorbing journey. We’d both just finished careers as Royal Marines commandos when we created Jöttnar, and were told on countless occasions whilst building the company that what we were proposing simply wasn’t possible; that we didn’t have the experience, connections or knowledge, that market barriers would be too high, that factories wouldn’t deal with us, that two guys on their own couldn’t possibly hope to compete in a landscape presided over by some real corporate giants – and so on and so on.
But that hasn’t proven to be the case and so it is satisfying to be here, building something that shows every sign of flourishing.
What do you put that growth down to?
I’m clearly biased but we make beautiful gear to an extremely high standard and there’s demand for that. I think that wherever there’s a meeting of form and function in physical terms that there will always be an audience. Add soul and you’ve created something really special.
How have the Ambassadors been doing? I’ve been watching Tom on social media getting around a bit. Alison was off doing the PDG ski event in Switzerland, Mike has been doing his usual Winter escapades in Scotland, I saw on the Jottnar Journal you joined him for some snow antics. Mark has also been out suffering as he likes to.
Yes – they’re all well, thanks. Alison is recently back from a ski mountaineering trip to the Lyngen Alps in Norway, although her big news is her recent engagement to James Thacker. James is an IFMGA/British Mountain Guide, so I expect that their house in Chamonix, if it isn’t already, will be adorned with ropes for curtains, axes for cutlery and skis for furniture! Mark is currently out in the Alps having returned from a successful expedition to Nanda Devi in the Himalaya with Martin Moran, and Mike was out in the Alps for the summer and is now awaiting the first dusting of snow on Ben Nevis, his doorstep venue. As you mention, Mike and I had a brilliant week together back in February up in his playground in Lochaber, ticking off some routes that have long been on both our lists.
And has this shaped the new and updated kit?
The role that these guys play in the development of our gear is crucial. Whilst Steve and I get out as frequently as we can, our priority has to be the daily requirements of running the business – but Mike, Mark and Alison are at the sharp end all day, every day, inflicting real and prolonged abuse on the gear. It’s through them that we’re able to capture the small details for improvement; things that might not become apparent otherwise.
Refine, improve, evolve. All existing models have been updated, from the panelling and cut through to improved welding and finish to upgraded face fabrics. Nothing has sat still. We’re small enough as a company for the two founders to be involved in every design decision, which I think delivers consistency but also creates an insistence on the highest possible standards at every turn. This does lead to high production costs for us, especially as we still produce in relatively small volumes, but we’re happy with that as it allows us to produce beautiful gear that we’re proud of.
We’ve also introduced five new items – a women’s version of the Asmund shell and also a women’s version of the Vanir LT (both NeoShell items), plus a new base layer and two mid-layers made from Polartec Power Stretch Pro. We feel that we have reasonable depth in each layering category now, which has taken a few years to achieve.
And you’ve split the release into two this year, what was the reasoning behind that?
Logistics and production timelines. Our down items (Fjorm and Fenrir) needed another few weeks, so we decided to phase the launch and release the items that we did have available. Given that it’s still summer weather, it’s completely fine that the down items are the ones to follow on.
There was a couple of hints on social media of new kit in the range before launch. We will have the rundown on both releases in a separate posts but what can you tell us about the new tech, fabrics or techniques you are using?
We continue to make full use of Polartec NeoShell for all of our shell items. There are other waterproof/breathable membranes that we could make use of but for us, NeoShell hits the sweet spot between waterproofness, breathability, windproofness and durability. Being able to dispense with faffy, and heavy, pit-zips because the membrane breathes so effectively, but it also being sufficiently bombproof to shrug off a Cairngorm blizzard or a Lakeland downpour was an environmental combination that no previous membrane had been able to deal with. It’s perfectly suited to the start/stop, hot/cold, wet/dry nature of being in the mountains.
We’ve also expanded our use of Polartec’s Power Stretch Pro, which is a modern evolution of what used to be the humble fleece. It’s designed to sit next to the skin and has baselayer-like wicking properties, to keep you dry, whilst the outer face is a stretch-woven nylon for durability. It’s soft, stretchy and warm and allows the production of some hard-wearing and versatile garments, such as our existing Alfar and our new Magni and Hemming.
And our use of blended yak wool in our Uller base layer continues. It took a couple of years in development to get the blend exactly right but the softness, wicking ability and anti-odour properties are exceptional, far more so than Merino. Having a synthetic component to it, it doesn’t require the same degree of care in use and washing as Merino does. We’ve also introduced a new base layer, the Erling. It’s fully synthetic, with an excellent Japanese fabric we sourced which wicks incredibly. It gives a Jöttnar base layer option for those with wool allergies, or those who just prefer synthetic base layers as a personal choice.
I’m looking forward to seeing this years gear up close, as are a lot of your loyal users going by the web. I hope the winter is good to Jöttnar and the mountains this year, then we can get out and use our armour!