Recycling was still in its infancy in 1993, but in Zurich brothers Daniel and Markus Freitag created the "messenger bag" - a bag made from truck tarp that became a design icon. And they have a new creation - a 100% biodegradable fabric.
Freitag recycles almost 400 tonnes of tarp annually. The equivalent of 110 km of trucks in a row.Good ideas are often born out of the small hassles of everyday life.
In 1993, Daniel and Markus Freitag, two Swiss young men barely 20 years old and respectively studying design and art at the University of Zurich, had their books frequently drenched by the rain as they moved around the campus. One afternoon, from their balcony, they noticed the highway with all the tarp covered trucks speeding along. Eureka! At a time when few people cared about recycling, they came up with the idea of making a bag from old tarpaulin, bike wheel inner tubes and used seat belts whose robustness and practicality are equaled only by their waterproofing. The now famous "messenger bag" was born.
Why “messenger bag"? Because the first model under the Freitag brand, the F13 Top Cat, was - because of its previously mentioned qualities - very quickly adopted by couriers in San Francisco and then all over the United States. Today, the Freitag range has 70 products, from smartphone covers to backpacks and luxury leather goods. The company recycles almost 400 tonnes of tarp (the equivalent of 110 km of trucks lined up in a row) every year, producing 400,000 items.
In addition, the Freitag brand has 16 F-Stores and 450 F-Dealers, partner shops, all over the world. As for the original F13 Top Cat, it is now on display at the prestigious Museum of Modern Art in New York ().
Global success has not altered the Freitag brothers’ initial approach, which over the years has become a life philosophy: "We think and act in cycles". The Swiss duo always think of the before and after of a product. "Upcycling means using a waste material that shouldn’t really be there in the first place," pointed out Markus Freitag in an interview with the Lifegate website in April 2017.
To transform old tarps into a vintage collection they are washed with collected rainwater (15,000 liters per day) before being cut by hand in the F-Actory Noerd, the nerve center of the Freitag brand in Zurich. Then, the thick pieces of fabric are assembled, always by hand, in Europe and Tunisia, before being marketed.
A new direction
In 2014, the Freitag brothers crossed another hurdle in the "circular" ready-to-wear economy with their F-ABRIC project. A 100% biodegradable fabric made of hemp, beech and in particular linen, a textile known not only for its biodegradability, but also for using far less energy to grow than wool or cotton.
Freitag ensures its fabric is manufactured without wasting water and within a radius of 2,500 km around Zurich, although other companies target the low costs offered by Asia. Even F-ABRIC clothing buttons are sustainable because they can be unscrewed and reused. A cycle is not just about re-using to make, says Daniel Freitag: "When you unscrew a button, it's a kind of educational moment because you start to think “How do those cycles work?" These are the little moments we try to build in, creating awareness."