SFC Go to The Freitag Factory

The boys’ school has a really strong and active parent community. The Welcome Committee is constantly organizing trips for wine tasting, hiking, and area tours. This time Mark and I went on a tour of the Freitag bag factory in Zurich.

I’ve seen these Freitag bags on the trams in Basel. Often I see about 10 or so in my tram car. They are distinctive and have a certain edgy sportiness about them.

Freitag bags are 100% Swiss. Back in 1993, these two brothers, Markus and Daniel Freitag, were looking for a striking bag they could use to keep their graphic design work safe and dry as they biked to work.  They wanted to use recycled materials, too.  After a lot of trial and error they settled on a combination of truck tarps, bike tire inner tubes, and seat belt straps.

So, Mark and I were excited to visit the factory with other parents from school and “maybe” pick up a bag for myself.

We had a lovely tour guide who showed us around. Our first stop was to visit the acquisitions space.IMG_3191

The people that work here are constantly on the phone or computer calling trucking companies and trying to buy their old tarps. They have a design color board that lists the preferred and priority colors the company and designers want them to find.

IMG_3190 I took a looooong look at this board and was picking the color of bag I was hoping to find. I was especially looking at the greens and blues.  At this point I don’t think Mark suspected my long-term plan.

The people who worked in acquisitions were very successful.

IMG_3192This is just one shelf of about 10 or so. They are all heaped with truck tarps of different colors. Some have been “processed” and some are still waiting to be seen.

Two guys go through and process every single tarp in the entire warehouse.  They do a few pallets a day, all day long.

First they spread them out on this cutting table. They look for holes or worn spots.

IMG_3197

Then they pull off those straps that secure the tarps onto the trucks. IMG_3200Then these dirty and smelly tarps are folded up and stacked on pallets. When a pallet is full a forklift will come on by and take it downstairs to the largest washing machines ever created. It could do a week’s worth of laundry for a family of 8 in one load.

Thankfully they have electric lift and carry system. These wet tarps weight about 35 pounds each!

IMG_3202The colors get cataloged and then the tarps are rolled up to look like real and usable fabric!

IMG_3201Gigantic racks of these bolts go up to the cutting room floor. The bags are actually designed in the cutting room. The different designs on the tarps gives them the opportunity to make each bag look unique. They really pride themselves on the fact that none of their bags look the same.

They have a fabric cutting table so large and fabulous I wanted to cry and plastic, non-cut-up-able pattern templates for a few of their really popular bags. I am totally going to do that for at least 2 of my bag templates.

IMG_3204 And right as I was all impressed and planning out my work space they showed me their big toy.

Laser-sighted. Programmable. Cutter.

IMG_3206 If I had an extra $50K laying around I might be able to get a small one. But, holy cats, it might be worth is just so I don’t have to actually cut anything ever again. I could probably get 20 bags cut out in the time it takes me to cut out one!

Then all those lovely bag parts are neatly stacked and labeled and packed up to go the sewing facility in another town.

IMG_3208I can’t deny that I was disappointed that the bags weren’t sewn in the Zurich facility. I really, really, really wanted to see those sewing machines (or have Mark see and then buy me one).

However, they do fix the bags here. One of the awesome things about Freitag is that if your bag rips or has a construction issue of any kind they will fix it for you. You mail it to the factory, they patch it or whatever, and then its mailed back to you.

Using my best Spy vs. Spy maneuvers I snuck over to their fix-it department and took some pictures.  Christmas is coming, Mark…

IMG_3211 IMG_3212The sewn bags are then shipped back to the factory where they are photographed in pain-staking detail for the website and hung up in a way that would make anyone with OCD feel at home.

IMG_3209I got a close up (again being where I am not supposed to be) of some bags that were getting ready to be photographed. They all look so colorful!

IMG_3193They ship their bags all over the world!  Freitag stores or other boutiques place orders for different bag types and sizes and then the good people in Zurich go through the racks of bags and select a range of colors the customers will hopefully like.They also fulfill all their online orders from here. Check out their website!

I had to buy one. I found myself very, very fond of the green colors they had. Very fresh and joyful.  The shop had over 100 bags to chose from. There was a sense of urgency from my fellow tourists as we looked through the shelves of bags. It was like a very polite Black Friday.  No pushing or shoving, but a lot of hording of potential purchases.

IMG_3698This bag has now been to Seville, all over Basel, and to Stein-am-Rhein! (Story coming next week.) It’s light, durable, and comfortable.

Not bad for a couple of guys looking to keep their stuff dry while biking to work.


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