I had never heard of Freitag bags until recently, but apparently they are very cool. And very Swiss.
Yesterday I toured the factory in Oerlikon (just outside of Zürich, about 7 minutes by train) with the American Women’s Club. In 1993 Markus and Daniel Freitag were looking for a tough, water resistant messenger bag to wear when they rode their velos (bikes). They noticed the tarps on the trucks driving by their flat, got ahold of one, used a seatbelt from an old car and some velo inner tube to make what they wanted, and a company was born.
We learned about the sustainability of the making of these bags. First, the use of recycled materials is the most important. The factory is chock-full of old tarps. Finding prized colors (i.e. not gray) is not always easy.
Of course the tarps are pretty filthy from being on trucks for 5-8 years, so they need to be washed.
They use water that they collect on their roof for this. Pretty cool, I think, especially since Zürich gets pretty good rainfall.
At the factory they have a crew of people using templates to cut out pieces of the tarps. The art comes in trying to create an interesting piece (using the patterns and letters from the tarp) and also keeping the waste to a minimum.
The sewing of the bags is done off-site in Switzerland, Portugal, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, and Tunisia.
The bags are sold in stores and online. The trick to the online store is that since each piece is unique, each one must be photographed individually – from all sides. We watched the photographer at work.
One perk for the employees is that there is a Freitag “lending library”. They can check out a bag from this wall and use it for a bit before they return it. Here is our tour guide showing us one bag she likes.
The company is starting something new with F-abric. They were looking for suitable clothing for their employees to wear, but didn’t find what they were looking for – a sustainable fabric that was tough as well as compostable. The fabric they have created is primarily linen and hemp, all sources being European.
The tour ended, of course, with time spent at the Factory Store, part of which is an outlet. Many women in the group bought a bag, but I managed to resist, although I thought the tour was particularly interesting.