Illustrator, graphic designer and artist, Martin Ander, aka Mander, discusses bringing his iconic style to an iconic backpack, and the inspiration behind the new Kånken Art.
How would you describe the style of your artwork and where does it come from?
My style is a mixture of everything I’ve seen growing up. It started with comics, then I got into skateboarding, then graffiti, then punk rock and hip hop. I’ve always been into the visual side of subculture – whenever I saw a punk rocker on the street when I was a kid, I was totally fascinated by how they looked. It was the same thing with skateboard graphics. They were printed on the coolest thing I knew, and the graphics seemed to tell so many stories, so that’s the direction I knew I wanted to go in.
What were your initial thoughts when you were asked to work with Fjällräven?
It was great – I’ve worked with big brands before where everything is produced quite quickly, but Fjällräven is such a quality brand where everything is thought out in detail. We initially began this project in 2020 during the pandemic, so we had time to produce something that was a true blend of my style and Fjällräven’s style.
For me, Kånken is a staple in Swedish fashion. Even though I’ve worked with some of my favourite skate brands and produced hundreds of skate graphics over the years, Kånken felt really special because it’s such an iconic product.
Where did the inspiration for this year’s Kånken Art come from?
While restrictions were in place during the pandemic, I was living in a region to the south of Stockholm called Sörmland, which is very close to nature. My family and I started walking a lot – I’m generally more of a street guy, but I love nature and enjoyed walking in the woods close to home and doing one-day hikes. I started looking for the structures and patterns in nature and began to draw them in my style, and the closer I looked, the more structures appeared on stones, leaves, fungus, and moss, for example. So that was the foundation for the repeated pattern you see on the Kånken.
In the end, I drew so many patterns and I couldn’t decide which one I liked most, so I decided to use them all, then add elements of punk and fanzine aesthetics to what eventually became a patchwork pattern.
Was there anything unexpected about creating this Kånken?
It was great to have such creative freedom and work with Fjällräven to create something more than just a bag. For instance, we made the front pocket bigger, so it could store a big sketchbook. And of course, there’s the pencil case and the notebook which come with every Kånken Art Plus. It matches well with who I am – I always carry around pens and sketchpads and so it was great to be able to make that happen for Kånken fans too.
How do you connect to nature? Is there something you do to help you refuel?
When I lived in Sörmland, a friend of mine began a challenge to swim in 100 lakes in one summer
I didn’t quite make that many but I was within biking distance of around 30 lakes. In the end, the kids wanted to keep going to the lakes they liked – which is understandable! But sometimes I’d drop the kids off with a friend and bike to three different lakes for a quick swim during my lunch break. A lot of my work involves staring at a screen or a piece of paper for long periods of time so I really need to move when I can. I also think much more clearly when I’m out walking or on my bike – I often get even more ideas while I’m out there.
For years, the Kånken community has found ways of personalising their backpack, as you’ve done with Kånken Art. Do you have any tips on how they can get creative with their Kånken?
I don’t think parents would be happy with this, but I always encourage people to draw on everything. I remember very clearly that I wrote ‘Beastie Boys’ on my Kånken when I was at school. I had copied an older kid who had written the same thing on his backpack in a graffiti style which I thought looked so cool. I remember I ran to stand in line behind him at the cafeteria just to get up close to his design. I would say carry some pens around with you and get drawing – I left some blank spaces on the Kånken Art for that reason, so get creative!