Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Cult Brand "Freitag": New Bags from Old Stuff

Last Friday we witnessed the opening of the World Cup 2010 in South Africa. In German Friday means “Freitag”, which is also the name of a cult brand. Almost twenty years ago, two brothers, Daniel and Markus Freitag, were on the lookout for a messenger bag, which was functional and water-repellant.


Daniel and Markus Freitag
Photo: Daniel Künzi

The two designers were inspired by the colourful lorries rumbling in front of their flat in Zurich (Switzerland). Thus, they took an old truck tarpaulin and cut a messenger bag out of it. In a similar fashion, they used a second-hand car seat-belt for the strap, while a bicycle inner tube provided the edging. Then they did some serious testing of the first prototype in San Francisco. We do not know how serious the testing was. Neither do we know why they did it in San Francisco (instead of Zurich). Maybe they liked the vibrant city in the North of California and were on vacation there. Another reason might be that San Francisco has a number of messenger bicycle services and an established bike messenger scene.

Freitag Bags
Photo: Peter Würmli

During the 1990s the two brothers made the bags for themselves, then for their friends and colleagues, and then shops came asking. Since the turn of the century it has been spreading. In 2010 they still produce Freitag bags in Zurich (Switzerland). The factory got a little bigger and the two brothers do not do cut bags on their own, anymore. They have 80 employees doing that for them. The Freitag brothers focus on designing new bags from old stuff. Obviously, they are pretty good at that. In the meantime they composed three different bag lines (messenger, downtown, work & relax), including laptop sleeves, cases, and wallets. The bags are bought by all kinds of consumers with different lifestyles. Bike messengers in the street wear them. So do white-collar workers in the office, and secretaries in the evening. You can also see them on campus, used by students and sometimes even professors (Frank received the bag from his wife as an “Easter egg”). Hip urban people express themselves with the “F-Bag”. They are willing to pay a premium price for a green personality. Since the F-Bags are cut from old truck tarpaulin, they are unique and individual. You can also compose your own F-Bag on the Internet with a designer tool (coming along with the warning: “It’s your fault”!). Originally, the product was meant for bike messengers, which highly value the functionality. Over time, the Freitag brothers realized that there is a market for their bag out there, far beyond their imagination. They repositioned the product and created motive alliances, combing the ecological value (the reuse of industrial parts) with functionality, durability, uniqueness, design, aesthetics, and fashionability. Depending on their lifestyles, consumers perceive and value the criteria differently.

Freitag communication largely refrains from using mass media. The product itself communicates. So does the packaging, the stores, the entire company and its customers. Often the messages are playful and witty. The packaging from recycling paper, for example, presents the “original Ftv Box” (“Buy a bag and get free-TV. Batteries not included …”). The flagship store in Zurich is made of 17 rusted shipping containers in a pile over 25 metres high (= 85 feet). Inside, steel staircases provide entry to four levels of display space, which showcase all the models in various shapes, sizes and designs. Currently there are five Freitag flagship shops across Germany and Switzerland (Berlin, Colgone, Davos, Hamburg, and Zurich), and 300 stores around the world selling the F-Bags.

Freitag is also present at the World Cup 2010. Recently, the Swiss company announced a new co-operation with the football brand Pelé Sports. The two companies developed a new football, made from used truck tarpaulins, which is colourful and robust. It is the right equipment for the dirt pitches, young South African footballers are used to playing on. In June 200 balls will be hand out as a free gift to kids in the townships during a series of pick up games called “Finding Pelé”.

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