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A Lesson in Growth | The New FREITAG Factory

Swiss company FREITAG has been all about two things from the word go– Recycling and Recontextualization. Which is why when it came time to move to a new factory 18 years since they were first established in a small apartment in Zurich, the same rules would apply.


Situated in Zurich’s pre-hip district Oelikon and misleadingly named NŒRD, the place really is anything but nerdy. At a whopping 7,500 square meters, everything within the factory is devoted to maintaining the highest environmental standards so that none of their resources go to waste. As for the production line, the FREITAG perfectionists re-use rainwater collected from NŒRD’s rooftops to wash their tarps, reuse the temperature of used water to heat up rain water, and reuse all kinds of wasted material in ‘Biopoints’ installed in the office tracts. That’s not all. They also take 50% of their heat from waste power plants, use a lush rooftop garden for inspiration and insulation, and pay a premium for hydro and solar electricity. If that’s not commitment to the environment, we don’t know what is.

A lot has happened in the past 18 years: from the first hand-sewn messenger bags to winning accolades from MoMA NYC and award winning stores in Zurich and Hamburg, FREITAG now dispatches to 400 resellers and 8 stores worldwide, boasting over 50 bag models. The fundamentals however, remain the same. From tarp intake, washing, cutting, assembly, packaging, shipping – most of the effort that goes into creating these bags take place within the four walls of the NŒRD, no outsourcing necessary. No venture capital, no exit strategy – even in days of turbo-capitalism FREITAG still thinks and works in cycles, even if it takes a little longer. And they are constantly experimenting with product, production and marketing, even if it confuses some people.



Along with the unveiling of NŒRD, 2011 also heralds the launch of FREITAG’s new Reference line in the Autumn/Winter collection, available in lovely shades of beige, grey and shade. They will feature designs of new but soon-to-be classics, including credit card holders, sports bags and women’s handbags. All these just goes to show that there’s a lot more you can do with vintage truck tarps than you might think.

– Zhou Yishu

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