Industry Report
8 min

The Fubuki Story

Colourful footwear for life on snow
Words by
Matthew Tufts
November 30, 2023

You probably remember if you’ve seen Fubuki boots in the wild. You likely responded to the bright colors — orange, pink, blue, and yellow — with some degree of shock (perhaps stoked but possibly appalled). They’re not your typical rubber winter work boots. So, it makes sense that the founders aren’t your ordinary businessmen.

With global marketing and a solid visual presence among professionals in the snowsports industry from Europe to North America to Australia, it frequently comes as a surprise to know Fubuki is entirely operated by its two, now 27-year-old Swedish founders, Kalle Norman and Christofer Ljunggren.

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With their bright colors, Fubuki’s is not your typical winter boots. Photo by Kalle Norman

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With their bright colors, Fubuki’s is not your typical winter boots. Photo by Kalle Norman

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No wonder Anna Segal is so happy – her Fubuki’s come in handy after a long day in the ski boots. Photo by Mattias Fredriksson

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No wonder Anna Segal is so happy – her Fubuki’s come in handy after a long day in the ski boots. Photo by Mattias Fredriksson

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David Kantermo is pretty good at matching his gear. However, he does need a pair of green ski boots. Photo by Mattias Fredriksson

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David Kantermo is pretty good at matching his gear. However, he does need a pair of green ski boots. Photo by Mattias Fredriksson

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Since their inception, the Fubuki boots have been designed for people who spend their entire day, and often a more significant portion of their lives, on snow. People like Ebba Forsgren. Photo by Lisa Björnström

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Since their inception, the Fubuki boots have been designed for people who spend their entire day, and often a more significant portion of their lives, on snow. People like Ebba Forsgren. Photo by Lisa Björnström

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And no, it’s not just managed by these two. Norman and Ljunggren, who have been friends since childhood, still handle everything, from product design to fulfilling wholesale orders to marketing and customer service.

Before Norman found himself stacking pallets of boots in his student apartment, he took a ski trip to one of the snowiest places on Earth: Hokkaido, Japan. In fact, the Japanese language uses over 100 words to describe snow. Fubuki translates to “snowstorm”, and it’s fitting that, on a stormy day while skiing overhead pow, Norman discovered the unique, orange, unbranded, waterproof winter boots that all the lifties and locals wore. Since their inception, these boots have been designed for people who spend their entire day, and often a more significant portion of their lives, on snow.

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The Fubuki founders Christofer Ljunggren and Kalle Norman photographed in their Stockholm warehouse. Photo by Axel Mazetti

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The Fubuki founders Christofer Ljunggren and Kalle Norman photographed in their Stockholm warehouse. Photo by Axel Mazetti

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The inspiration for Fubuki boots came while in Japan. Photo by Mattias Fredriksson

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The inspiration for Fubuki boots came while in Japan. Photo by Mattias Fredriksson

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Jacob Wester is one of many pro athletes rocking the Fubuki boots. Here, the humble Swede is captured in the Hokkaido backcountry, Japan. Photo by Mattias Fredriksson

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Jacob Wester is one of many pro athletes rocking the Fubuki boots. Here, the humble Swede is captured in the Hokkaido backcountry, Japan. Photo by Mattias Fredriksson

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This was the humble origin of Fubuki, though neither the company nor the name yet existed. And hidden in plain sight, on the feet of every down-to-earth local in the snowiest place on the planet, stood two fundamental tenets that would shape Fubuki:

  1. Durable, warm, waterproof boots should not be boring.
  2. Durable, warm, waterproof boots should not be heavy.

Norman picked up several pairs of the orange, lightweight, working man’s boots at a small, unassuming shop just outside of Niseko and returned to Stockholm, unaware of the stir his discovery would cause.

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Fubukis ethos is simple: Durable, warm, waterproof boots should not be boring or heavy.

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Fubukis ethos is simple: Durable, warm, waterproof boots should not be boring or heavy.

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Since the inception of Fubuki, it’s safe to say the warehouse has grown out of Kalle Norman’s student apartment. Photo by Axel Mazetti

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Since the inception of Fubuki, it’s safe to say the warehouse has grown out of Kalle Norman’s student apartment. Photo by Axel Mazetti

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Norman’s ten-minute walk to campus caused more than 20 people to take note of his boots. His father simply commandeered a pair as his own. It was abundantly clear that everyone Norman met wanted a pair. He quickly tracked down the distributor and eventually the factory manufacturing the boots in Japan and ordered a hundred more pairs. Perhaps the only person not immediately stoked on the boots was his girlfriend, whom he shared a 30-square-meter apartment with and whose “third roommate” quickly became 10 square meters of boot backstock.

Norman sold limited sizes of the unbranded boots at local markets. Still, it was his best friend, Christofer Ljunggren, who, two years later, recognized the potential of the budding enterprise as a creative outlet for his passion for design and branding. The friends struck a partnership while studying full-time in different cities. With Ljunggren taking the creative helm, directing a refined design and brand identity, and Norman managing the numbers, the new product was ready for a global market.

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While ski bumming in Hokkaido, Norman discovered the orange, unbranded, waterproof winter boots that lifties and locals wore. That was the inception of Fubuki. Photo by Mattias Fredriksson

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While ski bumming in Hokkaido, Norman discovered the orange, unbranded, waterproof winter boots that lifties and locals wore. That was the inception of Fubuki. Photo by Mattias Fredriksson

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Fubuki officially launched in 2019 and immediately grappled with two serious roadblocks, neither of which the founders could have foreseen. First, a typhoon flooded the facility in Fukuyama, Japan, where the boots were manufactured. Unfortunately, the factory had no plans to rebuild or continue making the boots, but fortunately, they released the design sketches to the Swedes. This silver lining enabled the two founders to tweak the designs and contract a new manufacturer to construct the boots with Fubuki’s improved measurements, styling, and details.

The 100 pairs of boots originally imported by Norman were soon eclipsed by a limited size run of 1,100 newly designed, Fubuki-branded pairs, and it seemed the company was well on its way. But then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and everything came to a crashing halt. With global markets and supply chains at a standstill, the two founders were forced to take corporate jobs while simultaneously attempting to keep their newly launched business afloat.

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David Kantermo, again. In Hokkaido, again. This time, he should have brought a blue pair of Fubuki’s instead… At least he had a fun time on his noboard.

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David Kantermo, again. In Hokkaido, again. This time, he should have brought a blue pair of Fubuki’s instead… At least he had a fun time on his noboard.

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Now, this is how you match your outfit with your boots. The talented photographer Sofia Wester Sjöberg sure has style and class. Photo by Jacob Wester Sjöberg

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Now, this is how you match your outfit with your boots. The talented photographer Sofia Wester Sjöberg sure has style and class. Photo by Jacob Wester Sjöberg

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Even Cody Townsend wears them! If the Fubuki boots work for the conditions on the Baffin Islands, they will most likely work anywhere. Photo by Bjarne Sahlén for the Fitty Project

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Even Cody Townsend wears them! If the Fubuki boots work for the conditions on the Baffin Islands, they will most likely work anywhere. Photo by Bjarne Sahlén for the Fitty Project

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While things looked bleak in the early months of the pandemic, news of the boots percolated just below the surface in ski towns worldwide. A few well-known athletes and photographers were seen wearing funky, colourful boots with the penguin logo, and mountain communities took notice.

Soon, Ljunggren began fielding more calls for Fubuki than for his day job while at his corporate office. It became clear that Fubuki was no longer a side hustle but a going concern clamouring for the founders’ full-time commitment. In 2021, Fubuki manufactured 10,000 pairs — they sold out before the end of the season. In 2022, they more than doubled that; in 2023, they doubled production again.

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However, Norman and Ljunggren are not PowerPoint people (there’s a reason they launched a boot company rather than pursuing jobs in the finance world after business school). Fubuki is a tangible outlet, growing and challenging them every day. It connects the two friends to the soul of the outdoor industry and enables them to work and live within the global mountain community. Norman and Ljunggren are entrepreneurs, creatives, and small business owners, but first and foremost, they are skiers.

The founders say Fubuki was designed as an alternative for the snow-loving community. Skiers have long been irreverent nonconformists. In a world where tough and resistant so often means rigid and boring, Norman and Ljunggren are cultivating something that represents an off-piste path for those who celebrate colourful personal expression on winter’s blank canvas.

They also hope their little enterprise will let them ski more … but for that to happen, they might have to hire someone who can assist them with the bookkeeping.

Matthew Tufts is a journalist and photographer focused on the intersection of outdoor recreation, environmental conservation, and rural communities. He’s a born n’ raised Vermonter (the “t” is silent), and skis uphill more than down.
The Fubuki Story
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