Freitag is the Swiss brand that reclaimed recycling from the clutches of lentil-munching, sandal-wearing eco fundamentalists. The company was born almost by chance in 1993 when two brothers from Zurich, Daniel and Markus Freitag, needed a sturdy and water repellent bag to carry around their designs on their bicycles. Cutting a bag from an old truck tarpaulin to meet their own needs, they stumbled upon a low-tech design concept that soon proved to have an eager market.
Practical, durable and with a cool patina of pre-use the simple designs of Freitag instantly indicate an awareness of the common sense of recycling without the fuss and sentimentality often wrapped up in notions of ‘environmentally aware’. The classic cycle courier bags – each one rather individual since they are made in the colours of the recycled materials at the point of appropriation- soon found a cult following; the business grew. And so did the range: from an expanded line of bags to suit the lifestyles of the design-conscious on the move to a fully range of ‘sucessories’; everything from keyrings to chi-chi little laptop sleeves.
And, a current favourite, the Freitag iPhone sleeve with its nifty little pull tab that easily and safely ejects the device from its snug lined tarpaulin cosy.
As might be expected from two designers, part of the Freitag identity is not just the products themselves, but the environment in which they can be browsed and bought. While the products are conveniently available online via the Freitag webshop, anyone who isn’t able to visit one of their beautiful shops is rather missing out.
In short, the house style is one that usually combines elements of the industrial with a sleek white clinical minimalism that one associates with Swiss design. All time winner is the Zurich flagship store that offers an elegant homage to the industrial origins of the brand combined with a cutting-edge architectural vernacular by Spillmann Echsle Architects who produced a building that takes on the form of stacked shipping containers.
By contrast, the Hamburg store plays with reversing the concept of the Zurich store by inserting the container elements into the interior of the elegant shop located in a highly-visible curve of a main road, making the unexpected interior easily visible through the large windowed street frontage.
And, whichever store one does decide to visit, there might often be more than simply retail going on. Not unexpectedly, Freitag have started to use the gallery-like spaces of some of their shops for interesting art projects, usually with a focus on graphic and street art connected with the original customer base for the brand’s success.