It is difficult, if not impossible, to walk through the streets of Zurich City without spotting a passer-by carrying a Freitag bag. In fact, these distinctive accessories are ubiquitous throughout Switzerland – and they are popping up around the globe. So what is the secret to Freitag’s success?
By recycling used materials such as truck tarpaulins and seat-belts into highly-desirable accessories, Freitag has hit upon a sustainable design that is both appealing and empowering. Not only do Freitag products look great, they come with real eco-credentials.
The Freitag story began as a simple idea born out of practicality. In 1993, two Zurich-based graphic designers, brothers Markus and Daniel Freitag, were looking for a functional, water-repellent and robust bag to hold their drawings.
Inspired by the multi-coloured trucks rumbling past their flat, they designed a Messenger Bag made of old truck tarpaulins, used bicycle inner tubes and car seatbelts.
The bag design idea that took shape in the living room of their shared apartment would kickstart a brand that is now the world leader in the truck-tarp-recycling bag industry.
Freitag repurposes 440 tons of truck tarpaulins per year (equivalent to a 68-mile-long line queue of transport trucks), as well as 35,000 bicycle inner tubes and 288,000 car seatbelts.
Reclaimed materials are environmentally friendly because they reduce our dependence on precious natural resources, and help keep waste out of landfills. But as Freitag proves, they can also inspire a wealth of creativity – especially when every item made is 100% unique.
Due to the nature of tarpaulin recycling, no two products can ever be the same. So every Freitag bag or wallet has its own distinct character and personality. This has proven to be a big selling point, especially with people seeking a product which reflects their individuality.
A logistical grand offensive is required to track down the right tarps at the right time. Most are being retired after five to ten years on the road. Used tarpaulins are normally difficult and expensive to dispose of. However, these wind and weather-beaten truck tarps provide a valuable raw material for Freitag.
At Freitag’s Noerd factory headquarters in the north of Zurich, the tarpaulins are trimmed and then cleaned in giant washing machines.
The revived tarpaulins are then cut directly by the bag designers to ensure optimum design styling is achieved.
Everything required for the Freitag production line is recycled. For example, rainwater is used to wash the used truck tarps, and then the final rinse water is used for the next pre-wash cycle. Waste generation and energy usage is always carefully monitored. Overall, the production process has been optimized and the production time reduced wherever possible.
Being ever-conscious of environmental impact, it should come as no surprise that Freitag’s flagship store in Zurich is constructed from old shipping containers.
The tower structure, which is made up of 19 freight containers and stands 26 meters high, is packed with 1600 Freitag bags over 4 sales floors. This low-rise landmark is now a feature of the Zurich skyline, and is worth looking out for if arriving or departing Zurich’s main rail station by train.
To this day, Daniel and Markus Freitag remain at the helm of the product design process. They envision, sketch and develop each new design, before accompanying it through the entire production process.
The design aesthetic continues to evolve and the sleeker uni-coloured Freitag Reference range now stands alongside the energetic pop-graphics of the original Freitag Fundamentals.
While Freitag Fundamentals were developed for messengers on two wheels, Freitag Reference is a tribute to messengers of the word – journalists.
Despite being a new range, the Freitag Reference products are still created with ‘well-travelled’ tarpaulins. The level of craftsmanship is akin to traditional high-quality leather work, making this a seriously stylish and timeless range. Which is ideal for hard-wearing accessories that can literally be loved for a lifetime.
If the Reference collection is anything to go by, Freitag is developing a more sophisticated and refined aesthetic which makes the products more accessible to a wider audience. As the need for more sustainable products is growing, and consumer demands for eco-friendly items increases, that can only be a good thing.
Freitag was founded in 1993 by brothers Markus and Daniel Freitag. The company is headquartered in Zurich-Oerlikon, Switerland.
Since the creation of their first messenger bags at home, the brothers have grown Freitag into a successful company employing over 170 staff and producing around 400,000 products per year.
Freitag owns 11 F-Stores located in Berlin, Cologne, Davos, Hamburg, New York, Tokyo, Vienna, Lausanne, and Zurich.
It also has an extensive online store based in Zurich, as well as sales outlets via over 470 retail partners worldwide.
Freitag has gained numerous awards along the way, ranging from product design, to retail outlet design, marketing and photography.
FREITAG has also been the subject of two book published by Lars Müller Verlag.
- Visit the Freitag website >
- Explore FUNDAMENTALS bags and accessories >
- Explore REFERENCE bags and accessories >
- Follow Freitag on Facebook >
Photo credits: Banner image – R117 AHLGREN components and finished handbag by jgxdh.com. See individual images for photo credits.
Freitag R117 AHLGREN features in the February 2014 edition of Rhine Capital Partners monthly investment updates.
- On 25th February 2014