Freitag's truck tarp bags on their way to Asia

Wed Sep 21, 2011 7:43am EDT
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By Silke Koltrowitz

ZURICH (Reuters) - Switzerland's Freitag, the maker of colorful trendy bags made out of recycled truck tarpaulin, opens a new store in Tokyo next month and is also pushing into other Asian countries as it seeks to become less dependent on European markets.

The company, which recently moved to a new bigger factory in Zurich, has seen double-digit sales growth over the last years and has accelerated store openings but is currently suffering from the negative impact of the strong Swiss franc.

"We want to expand further and conquer new markets, also in Asia. We are ready for that now," Chief Executive Monika Walser told Reuters in an interview.

The company was set up by two brothers, Daniel and Markus Freitag, who sewed their first bag in a small student apartment back in 1993, using recycled truck tarpaulin, second-hand car seat-belts and used bicycle inner tubes.

The ingredients have not changed much since, but the production facilities and scale of the business have come some way. Today Freitag's popular messenger bag sells for 220 Swiss francs ($248.5) on its website.

"Our first investment was a sewing machine and we used to wash truck tarps in the bathroom, which annoyed my flatmates (housemates)," said Markus Freitag, adding he sewed about 1,000 bags himself.

The firm currently employs over 130 people, runs eight stores and is about to open a ninth, and works with more than 400 retailers who sell the 300,000 bags and accessories the company makes per year. The Freitag brothers work as creative directors.

Freitag was present in Japan, where the brand has many fans, for 15 years via other retailers before deciding to open its own store. Another store opened its doors in New York this year.   Continued...