2019 Coats & Jackets

Midnight Plane to Svalbard: A Look at Our New Expedition Parka

By David Hellqvist

Jul 13, 2022

Midnight Plane to Svalbard: A Look at Our New Expedition Parka

Whether you’re schlepping to Svalbard, or simply strolling to your nearest cafe, our Needlecord Expedition Parka will keep you insulated in style.  

Just over two years ago I got on a plane to Oslo. Once there I connected on to another flight that landed in Longyearbyen at around midnight. Longyearbyen is the de facto capital of Svalbard, an Arctic island group which itself belongs to Norway. ‘Byen’ means village in Norwegian, so it’s not a bustling metropolis. Somewhere in the region of 2,500 people live here. And even that sounds like a lot when you look around. When we landed it was broad daylight, even though well after midnight. Lit up as if it had been 12 o’clock noon. Had I gone there in the wintertime it would practically never have been light. I remember locals telling me they had to wear head lights just to go to the supermarket for their Sunday shopping.

Svalbard is located about midway between continental Norway and the North Pole. The island group ranges from 74° to 81° north latitude, and from 10° to 35° east longitude. That means it’s cold there. And actually quite dangerous: we were constantly surrounded by armed guards when we left the village to protect us from polar bears. I never saw any but I spotted a group of walruses up close. Had I visited in the winter it would have been freezing cold, but even in July you had to wear long johns, insulated boots and proper expedition jackets to stay warm.

I mention this trip because, going there with a large group of people (many of whom even worked in ‘fashion’) it was quite clear that warm comfort and style doesn’t always go hand in hand. In fashion there’s an unsaid rule that the Autumn / Winter season is much more fun than the Spring / Summer one, for both the designer and the customer. In the A/W half they get to play with ‘proper’ fabrics like wool, and we can layer up looks in a way that S/S never allows you. It’s true but, it has to be said, no-one’s ever told that to the people of Longyearbyen.

Super technical brands focus a lot on functionality, and so they should, but they often drop the metaphorical style ball. Most brands just seem unable to do both: they say, ‘Ah well, it’ll be dark 23 hours of the day there anyway, no-one will see, who cares!” True, recently some outdoor brands have recalibrated their designs into a sort of tech-fashion that has worked well for everyone involved. But what about the other way around? Few sartorial brands truly master outerwear. 

And fair enough, how do you translate a Savile Row mentality into jackets and gilets that can be worn in the Arctic cirlce? It’s not an easy one, but as the new Drake’s Needlecord Expedition Parka shows, intricate details and an undying belief in great fabrics is a good start. This is maybe not a jacket you’d go to the actual North Pole with but - and this I know from personal experience - it’s certainly good enough for Svalbard. I don’t think Drake’s have got any wholesale accounts in Longyearbyen but if they did I’m confident the locals would appreciate the 100% cotton shell, Italian corduroy, two-way zip, brushed Tattersall cotton lining, slotted horn buttons and shearling collar. So whether they are hiking, hunting or chilling in the island’s one and only pub they’ll be warm. And sorted.

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