I remember the first time I had one of Freitag's outlandish products in my hands. I consider this such a significant moment, not only because my memory isn’t one of the best, but also because it’s quite unusual to keep such a small event in mind. At the time I had been working for only a few weeks for a large advertising agency. Professionally speaking I was a beginner and creative agencies were a whole new world for me. From that moment onwards, my colleagues would be copywriters, art directors, video makers and other people like myself. Accustomed as I was to the Italian motorsport companies with their production departments, assembly lines, HR offices and clock in and out machines, such a glossy venue in the historical center of Milan seemed a little bizarre.
One day a young colleague, a designer with a very strong personality, took her Mac out from a strange yellow case, shiny and a little dirty, showy because of the bright color, but minimalist in its shape. When I asked her more about it, she explained that it was a particular object produced by a Swiss company with recycled, washed, hand-cut and sewed truck tarpaulins. This was done in such a way that the canvas graphics created a graphic decoration on the case.
At the time this all sounded like the umpteenth form of snobbism of the creative theater in which I was involved.
Several years later I moved to Lugano, Switzerland. Here I discovered that the brand that I got to know years back in Milan was actually much more popular than I imagined. Almost all of my colleagues and friends had at least one bag or accessory made from recycled truck liners. In Lugano and throughout most of Switzerland, these bags are everywhere: in shop windows - and not just in the most nonconformist ones - on students, workers, cyclists, mothers, fathers and children’s backs.
An interesting post by Oliver Gemperle, an old friend of the Freitag brothers, tells of the days when Daniel and Markus sewed their first bag, made entirely of recycled materials such as truck tarpaulins, inner tubes and safety belts. The idea was undoubtedly original, especially if we consider that in 1993 ecology had little relevance in public opinion and indeed was considered by many to be an excessive sensitivity, extravagant and even a bit snobbish.
The article describes the environment in which the idea came to mind very well: the ramshackle post-student apartment turned into a laboratory, the youthful enthusiasm of the two designer brothers, the gray 90s Zurich that was not just a question of atmosphere and that feeling of having something potentially disruptive.
Twenty years later, the small company has become a well-established company, with 180 employees, an ecologically friendly head office and a solid brand identity. All this despite the ruthless competition of the fashion industry, dominated by historical brands that count nine-zeros billing.
Today it is mainly thanks to companies strongly oriented towards design, just like Freitag, if the themes related to aesthetics, ergonomics, functionality and sustainability of a product are taken into ever more serious consideration.
Among the characteristics that make this brand so special are the romantic story of its founders, the authentic exclusivity of each single piece, minimalist communication, ironic tone of voice and effective consistency when talking about environmental sustainability.
Credits: - Pictures by Noë Flum - English translation by Paris Nobile