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A Conversation With... Sebastian Westin at Sandqvist

Nov 03 2019

Scandinavia, sustainability, and a rugged design DNA are the pillars of the Sandqvist brand - END. sits down with co-founder Sebastian Westin to learn more.


Translating the rigours of Nordic landscapes into high-specification luggage since 2004, Sandqvist has grown into one of the most recognisable names in outdoor accessories which are built for utility but cut-through with boundless aesthetic appeal.

Drawn together by a dichotomy of love for both urban living and rural exploration, the Sandqvist brothers and their lifelong friend Sebastian Westin embarked on a journey to discover a product capable of serving both halves of these lifestyle counterpoints. Single-minded in their vision to produce timeless pieces which translate from a week spent in the city to a weekend spent exploring the slopes of northernmost Sweden, the success of their mission speaks for itself.

A band of brothers, this intrinsic sense of adventure has followed them as they've become the living embodiment of the Sandqvist brand, building an identity that's predicated on the application of their products in the wild - venturing often beyond the city limits and putting their bags to the test as they continue to explore the exquisite Scandinavian landscapes that shaped them.

To learn more, END. sat down with co-founder Sebastian to talk about the pillars of the brand and their vision of design and sustainability in 2018.


END.: Sandqvist is inspired by natural Nordic landscapes and the energy of contemporary city lifestyles. How do these two contrasting perspectives work together to inform Sandqvist’s design?

Sebastian: We have always wanted to combine the two in terms of both design and functionality. It’s better to be able to use just one bag for both outdoor pursuits and for going to work; a weekend trip or to the nightclub. Living in Stockholm, or Sweden in general, nature is always close. So the perfect bag is a bag you can use for all activities.

END.: Sandqvist’s product is a careful blend of form and function, and there’s a big focus on durability and repairability. Why are these factors important to you?

Sebastian: I guess, that from an early start in the outdoor world we wanted something functional with as few perishable or breakable elements as possible, and to design in a way that if there was a breakage it would be easy to fix. There is something really nice about sturdy and durable materials. I’ve always loved to wear really good quality outdoor clothing, because it gives you a sense of safety and offers that extra boost of keeping warm and dry. I guess it’s the same thing with bags, you want the bag to be like an extra layer to the body, adding functionality and comfort. Although we don’t design hiking bags made for several days on the mountain, the inspiration comes from that world and from that community since that’s what we have grown up doing. But we wanted to add something extra, and that’s where the multiple use factor comes into the brand. A big focus is also the sustainability part of it. It’s better to fix and reuse than to buy a new product. And we want to make long lasting bags. We understand that stuff happens when you use your product, whether it’s a bag, a car, or a pair of shoes and sometimes it breaks. Being able to have our own professionals repairing or changing parts is really important and a great service. I wish more brands would start doing the same.



END.: Your visual storytelling is really strong, what do you look for when scouting for new locations to tell the Sandqvist story?

Sebastian: We want to visit places that we actually like to go to, a place where we would and will be. It doesn’t matter if it’s in the outdoors or the city, it needs to be genuine and real. And preferably look good on photo. Nine times out of ten we go to places where we would go on our free time anyway. It's always good to mix work with pleasure.

END.: How important is the brand’s Swedish heritage to the company today?

Sebastian: It’s really important. Without the inspiration we get from our heritage, we wouldn’t design the bags we make today. And in my book, Sweden stands for something genuine: fresh air, clean water, mountains and forests, lakes and streams, as well as equality, sustainability, and taking care of one another (although we can all do better at all of above).


END.: Outside of Sweden, what are the most memorable landscapes you’ve experienced?

Sebastian: I think Norway has the most beautiful landscapes in the world, it ticks off all my boxes. It has the mountains, rivers, valleys, forests and the cold fresh Northern Sea coast. A couple of years ago myself and the other two founders of Sandqvist borrowed a small cabin - basically four walls and a roof way up in the Norwegian mountains - and went fly fishing and hiking for a couple of days. That landscape is the most stunning I’ve ever seen, we can share some images from the trip with you.

END.: Why do you think Scandinavia is leading the charge in the global sustainability movement, and what does it mean for Sandqvist?

Sebastian: For being such a small country we have some big fast fashion and design companies such as H&M and IKEA, and we are proud of those. But we also want to offer a reaction to that approach. Swedish people - in general - are proud of our clean lakes and forests. The freedom to roam is also something we hold on to. But I also see that today things have changed a lot since, let’s say, ten years ago. Back then sustainability was something you kind of counted on as a cost, today it’s the opposite and I guess some Scandinavian brands were quick to realize that. But far from all brands in Scandinavia are doing it to the full. I hate it when I see big companies green-washing their brand with a small sustainable collection just for show.

END.: What do you think is one of the biggest misconceptions of Sweden as seen from the outside world?

Sebastian: It's not cold all the time, and we don't have polar bears roaming around.