After spending a couple of days digging into the past of the buzzy city of Zurich, a visitor can be completely mellowed out by the beautiful old buildings, historic structures and the cosy vibe of the inner working of the old town. But as pleasant and pretty as Zurich is, there’s the ‘other’ side of town where light industry chugs away and the buildings aren’t going to win the princess pageant.
There are parts of the industrial sector here, but no longer traditional industry or fabrication. And like many diminishing industrial areas throughout European metropolises, neglect and dilapidation were the starting points for gentrification and new beginnings in the 21st century.
Zurich west used to tap along to the sounds of machines and black soot would hang in the air – but now it’s the hippest place to visit in town, Buildings have been renovated and windows made over in a modern way – sympathetic to the past and the people who slogged away here – architecture on every street is innovative and thoughtful. Facades remain and the buildings behind them peep through with a wink to previous generations and a nod to the future.
One such standout here is a building block constructed of steel containers – the flagship store of Freitag.
Freitag is a ‘bag concept’. Freitag’s original products are made from recycled materials – used truck tarpaulins, car seat belts, air bags and bicycle inner tubes. Because these materials are tough, the products are too. Wonderful bags, wallets, satchels, back packs and overnighters are part of this super cool range – and there is not one product the same as another because they are made from original pieces of tarps, Every Freitag item is an individual.
The first bag was sewn 24 years ago – a messenger bag sewn by hand from an old tarp. Early pieces were put together in a Zurich apartment by the young founders themselves, two graphic designer brothers Markus and Daniel Freitag. They had been inspired by the multicoloured, heavy freight traffic that hummed through the Zurich transit intersection in front of their apartment.
The first bags were sold out of the brothers’ living room and in 2006 they decided to sell their bags from a store made of freight containers – the ‘floors’ are home to more than 1600 individual bags for sale.
The Freitag Store Zurich is completely built from recycled containers which were gutted, reinforced, piled up and secured. Zurich’s first bonsai skyscraper: low enough not to violate the city’s restrictions on high-rise buildings; high enough to produce vertigo.
From the Freitag Store Zurich looking into the colour of the west end – the coolest address in town.
Freitag has grown rapidly ever since the first tarps were washed in the brothers’ bathtub. The bag makers have gone from two to around 170 employees, from one to more than 40 bag models, and is now producing cool, and comfortable workwear – t-shirts and shorts and accessories.
Head west in Zurich to stroll the area and visit the shop that started a worldwide trend and if you can depart that little high-rise without making a purchase, you have more self-control than this writer.
Writer Bev Malzard purchased a cool bag after much deliberation over the colour. Of course I did!
FACTS & FIGURES
Headquarters: FREITAG lab. ag / NŒRD, Zurich-Oerlikon, Switzerland
Year founded: 1993
Proprietors: Markus and Daniel Freitag
Number of staff: around 170
Production: around 400,000 products per year
Number of stores: 17 F-Stores, with six in Switzerland (Davos, Flagship Store Zurich, Grüngasse Zurich, Zurich Noerd, Lausanne, Basel), four in Germany (Hamburg, Cologne, Berlin, Frankfurt), one in Milan, one in Vienna, one in Bangkok, one in Taipei, one in Melbourne and two in Tokyo
An Online Store based in Zurich-Oerlikon and 450 retail partners worldwide
Materials used: 390 tons of truck tarpaulins, 150,000 car seatbelts and 15,000 bicycle inner tubes per year
Products: around 40 bags, around 30 accessories and FREITAG F-ABRIC workwear
Vist here for some fun videos: https://www.freitag.ch/en/tarpblanche
Read the origins of this tarp tale from rooms to riches from the source: