If you’re looking for a Swiss fashion brand that truly embodies the spirit of sustainability, turn to this edgy bag and accessory maker that transforms upcycled materials into portable – and practical – wearable design.
Sustainability is a word that is often banded about these days to denote brands that claim to be more eco-friendly. Sadly, though, not all brands that boast of sustainable measures are truly practicing what they preach.
But if you find yourself walking down Geroldstrasse in Zurich, you may find yourself staring at a unique shop that looks like a pile of cargo containers stacked on top of each other – and that’s just the beginning of the journey into stylish sustainability that has long characterised the luggage and accessories brand we know today as Freitag.
It All Started In a Flat...
Yes, we know that sounds like the clichéd start-up beginning, but it’s true: Freitag began life in a small apartment in a “rough” part of town. There, brothers Markus and Daniel Freitag hit upon the idea of transforming industrial detritus into practical, functional, and hip carry-all bags that could be used by cyclists and commuters.
Freitag, Koh, Freitag
In 1993, Markus brought home a large roll of grungy tarpaulin previously used to cover trucks in a neighbouring garage. He cleaned and cut up the tarp, stitched it together with a bunch of other found materials (in this case, old car seatbelts and busted inner tubes from bikes), and transformed it into the prototype of what has become the Freitag brand’s bestselling item: a unique messenger bag that was sturdy for all types of weather and strong enough to carry just about everything a person needed to bring along.
On 24 March 1993, the Freitags introduced their brand and product to the world and they have not looked back since. Indeed, their first ever product – the F13 TOP CAT messenger bag – now has pride of place at New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) for being a revolutionary item that was way ahead of its time in terms of concept and design but remains relevant to this day.
Today, Freitag continues to lead the way in terms of sustainable fashion not only in Switzerland but throughout the rest of the world.
At Noerd, their headquarters in Zurich Nord, nothing is wasted. Every tarp that is past its prime as a truck cover is carefully washed, cut, and formed into handy, stylish, and certainly durable bags that not only look good, but also lower the need to use natural materials like leather in the creation process. All of these are sourced locally, as are the other upcycled materials used in all of their products.
Likewise, Freitag is still a leading innovator in the sustainable fashion sector. Aside from the transformation of industrial debris into functional and useful items, the company has also ventured into the creation of sustainable (and eventually compostable) textiles, an endeavour that resulted in the creation of F-abric a material woven from hemp and flax fibres that Freitag now uses in its line of apparel for both men and women.
The Concept of Complete Circularity
But what exactly has made Freitag such a favourite among those who love an edgy urban look and those who advocate for sustainability in fashion? Douglas Koh, Freitag’s Brand Ambassador for Southeast Asia, Taiwan, and Australia, recently shared his insights with us on Freitag’s almost cultic appeal.
“I feel that the fashion industry has been changing at a very fast pace, with seasons growing shorter and closer,” he says when asked about why Freitag is so popular among Asia’s most on-trend fashionistas, with the F41 Hawaii Five-O extra-small messenger bag being the most sought-after piece. “However, [over] the past few years, there has been a shift towards slow fashion, which is right up our alley because we do not produce seasonal products. [We] strongly support slow fashion because good design and products are timeless and can be used for a very long time. All Freitag products must fit that bill before they are produced.”
Similarly, Douglas opines that eco-friendly style watchers love the brand because of its straightforward, no-frills persona. “Sustainability is not even at the core of what we do and instead [it’s] a result,” he explains. “This is a strong message because, in a lot of ways, sustainability is a mindset and attitude towards life. Recent trends concerning environmental issues have also added to our F-ans as environmental issues are more critical than ever and people notice that Freitag is not riding the trend wagon and [we’ve been] this way since [the] very beginning.
“[What makes Freitag’s mindset] different in the sense that we have never pushed the idea of sustainability specifically and rather the idea of complete circularity as an attitude and mindset. Sustainability is an outcome of our manifesto and attitude. This alone makes us completely different from most brands.”
And, of course, Freitag products are all built to last and serve as proof that nothing should ever go to waste – all we really need to live more sustainably is to make the most of what we have and transform it into something beautiful, useful, and safe for the earth.
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Pictures: Freitag.ch, IG Douglas Koh