One of the highlights of my recent trip to Switzerland was a tour of Freitag factory in Zurich. The messenger bags first designed and developed by Markus and Daniel Freitag in 1993 have become serious objects of design lust. But watching how they go from the dirty tarp off of an 18-wheeler to a considered work of industrial and graphic design was incredible to see.
The F-Factory, in an industrial corner of Zurich, is ground zero for Freitag manufacturing.
They start with a dirty truck tarp (about 2 tons of them come in every day) which the factory workers disassemble and cut into smaller pieces. Unusable pieces like metal rivets are recycled.
From there it's into the industrial washing machines to clean the tarps up for production.
Once clean, the tarps are photographed and then rolled up for storage. The photos are pinned to each tarp so bag designers looking for something special can get a sneak preview of what they'll have to work with.
After choosing the tarp, each bag designer then sets out choosing which parts of the tarp he or she wants. Naturally they use as much of the tarp as they can before recycling the scraps, which go into making new truck tarps.
The bag designers use templates to make their cuts.
Stacks of precut pieces are then sent off to be sewn into full bags. Freitag has sewing centers in Switzerland, Tunisia and Portugal. It's the only part of the process that occurs outside the factory.
Once the bags are put together they're photographed from all angles by this camera. Because no two are alike, online shoppers get a full 360 degree view of the bags before making their selections.
Some bags are sent back to the factory from retailers who wind up with a dozen yellow bags and no more red ones. They are then redistributed.
Once the bags are finished many of the make their way over to the F-Shop about a quarter mile away.
Bags usually make their way to the shop by bicycle, Freitag's favorite mode of transportation.
The F-Shop is comprised of 17 shipping containers and was opened in 2006. The architects are Annette Spillmann and Harald Echsle.
The sign out front encourages truckspotting from the tower's observation deck. I spotted a couple tarps that would have made nice bags from up there, and the views of Zurich are incredible.
Inside the shop things are laid out quite geometrically, with walls of bags placed in pull-out drawers.