Nigel Cabourn X Tretorn
“Usually when I collaborate with brands we’re either making clothes, shoes or accessories but with Tretorn we’re producing all three – which I’ve never done before. But the magic of Tretorn is that this is possible, so we’ve created a three-piece combination of jacket, shoe and bag all made in organic Ventile. It’s pretty special,” said Nigel.
This season Nigel Cabourn has worked with the Sweden’s Tretorn to create a mountain packa, a backpack and a pair of tennis shoes, all made from organic Ventile cotton.
This ‘do it all’ ethos is something that has been a part of Tretorn’s DNA since the very beginning, and whilst the name might be synonymous with the sport of tennis, they’ve also contributed landmark designs to a whole range of fields.
The Tretorn story starts right back in 1891, when the Dunker family opened up a rubber factory in the Swedish town of Helsinborg. At that time farmers working outside in the less-than-ideal Scandinavian weather were constantly struggling with damp feet, so the family set out to make galoshes—simple rubber overshoes which kept feet warm and dry whilst trudging across waterlogged land. By 1896 they’d already made 1,000,000 pairs of the things
The brand were also one of the first to recognise the demand for sports shoes—towards the end of the 19th Century modern developments such as the introduction of the Saturday half-day and the rise of sports clubs meant that leisure wasn’t just reserved for the upper classes. Lightweight, flexible shoes were the order of the day.
Utilising the footwear know-how they’d developed whilst churning out endless pairs of galoshes, in 1900 Tretorn created their first sports shoe—a rubber-soled canvas plimsoll—making them the second longest-running sneaker manufacturer in the world (just behind Keds). Meanwhile, the brand were also making car tyres, bicycle pedals, tennis balls, hose pipes, military boots and raincoats.
Beyond simply ‘making stuff’, Tretorn are also famous for their forward-thinking attitude to their employees, and the brand was one of the first to give its workers free healthcare and create an on-site nursery for their children.
What else? In 1967 they created the Nylite—the classic tennis shoe worn by Björn Borg and Martina Navratilova at countless tournaments. Thanks to it’s subtle, clean design, this canvas shoe went on to become a firm favourite far beyond the tennis court, beloved by preppies and worn on the feet of everyone from Dustin Hoffman to Farrah Fawcett.
Today the brand continues to do things its own way, and was recently highlighted at the World Ocean Conference thanks to its work with recycled fabrics.
This long history of forward-thinking design meant that when Nigel sat down with the brand to jot down ideas for their collaboration, there was a lot to go at.
“Both brands have a long heritage and strong connection to mountaineering and military and a shared desire to create the best products, which ultimately will be shaped by age and passed on for generations. For this collaboration Tretorn introduced me to Sarek in Northern Sweden, one of Europe’s last true wilderness areas, which I found very exciting and inspirational,” explained Nigel.
Sarek is one of Sweden’s oldest national parks, and is home to nearly 2,000 square kilometres of mountains and glaciers, as well as a particularly picturesque river delta known as the Rapa. This wild, uncompromising expanse inspired Nigel and Tretorn to look back at what many believe to be the glory days of outdoor gear… the 1970s.
The early 70s were an explosive time for outdoor clothing—with little in the way of an ‘industry standard’ to follow, countless young hikers with fresh ideas started their own companies, often selling their gear straight out the back of second-hand station wagons parked next to the trail.
One of the archetypal designs of the era was the four-pocket mountain parka. These were usually made from a blend of cotton and polyester known as 60/40, but for Nigel’s version, Tretorn have pulled out all the stops and used Ventile—that incredibly dense, highly-breathable water-resistant cotton worn by Edmund Hillary during his historic ascent of Everest.
The Ventile backpack from the Tretorn collection pays homage to the same era—and although it wouldn’t look out of place in a Kodachrome photo from a 1973 issue of the National Geographic, it’s been brought up to date with a padded laptop pocket.
Whilst the jacket and the backpack look to the hills for inspiration, the Nigel Cabourn X Tretorn Sneakers are influenced by two 1960s Tretorn tennis shoes—combining the ‘wing’ logo from the Nylite with the raised rubber side-panel of the Racket. In keeping with Tretorn’s use of recycled fabrics, the water-resistant Ventile fabric used on the uppers is made from recycled cotton, whilst those chunky vulcanised soles are made from 30% natural rubber.
And for anyone wondering why the insoles are different colours… well, that’s a unique detail added by Nigel to help him know his left from right whilst he’s on the go—a simple touch that sums up the whole collection—it’s well-made gear, inspired by the natural world, and built for modern times.