I went through several backpacks as a kid. Between school, friends' houses, soccer practice, and your average foolishness, they were invariably torn, beaten up, and in need of replacing by the start of the next school year. Bad news for my parents, great news for Jansport.
"A lot of what's being produced in fashion nowadays is predatory," says Daniel Eckler, a designer who has a new product—earnestly dubbed the Better Backpack—that’s crafted to stick around for awhile. "Fast fashion is a lot of fun artistically, but it also leads to massive debt, waste, and social pressure."
To create a longer-lasting product, Eckler and his design outfit Mijlo built the pack out of canvas—a hardy material used by everyone from the military to ranchers donning Carhartt jackets to competing backpack brands like Herschel and the Swedish Fjällräven.
The difference, Eckler says, is that they’ve amped up the stitching that holds it all together. Nylon thread loops through the canvas at 10 stitches per inch, which Eckler describes as the highest count they can reach before the punctures compromise the strength of the fabric.
Eckler's intention, beyond creating a not-crap product at a reasonable price point, is to champion a brand of sustainability that’s less about hemp and organic cotton and more about nixing disposable design in favor of conscious consumerism. When shopping, Eckler says, every consumer should ask: "Do I really need this?"
"That should be the first question you ask yourself—not just in terms of consumption, but in terms of living your life," he tells Co.Design.
To emphasize that point, the Mijlo team put together a campaign where they asked designers to name their essential possessions, and then photographed them (and gave them the Things Organized Neatly treatment). "I love that 'essentials' can mean something completely different depending on who you ask," Eckler says. But he found that, "pretty much everyone needs a backpack. It seemed like a logical first product to make."
And even if the Better Backpack turns out not to be a shopper's essential after all—and it gets returned years after purchase—the Mijlo team will give buyers a 10 percent rebate and give the pack a second life.
Snag one here.