In the early nineties I moved out of my house and got an apartment with Freitag Bros.
Scientists have proven that permanent acoustic emissions from highways are extremely unhealthy: nervous stress, light sleep, depression and, inevitably, outright insanity. In fact, the first few months with Markus and Daniel were bliss. But then my seemingly sane and friendly roommate started doing things that will drive you crazy faster than any noise can imagine.
I was unemployed, waking up during the day and trying to think of a story that would be my first novel. Markus Freitag’s roommate is different. Hyperactive as he was – even at that – he laid the start of a story that I will tell here.
One morning Mark hitched a trailer onto his bicycle and pedaled to a close by industrial zone. When he returned with an old tarpaulin from a cargo truck. While dragging her to the fifth floor, he started scrubbing her in the bath. He then placed it in his bedroom between the bed and the stereo, and drew a secant line on top of it: a prototype FREITAG bag.
Our comparatively comfy apartment has now changed as radically as my life. For weeks the tub would be full of black and stinking water tainted with dirty tarpaulins. The hall was piled with boxes of ‘precious materials’: old bicycle inner tubes, seat belts salvaged from the teeth of destructive junkyard dogs and lots of, many more smelly tarps. The kitchen table was replaced with a pre-industrial stitching machine. His voice overrides anything you have ever heard chattering through the streets. Traffic closed on me from all sides. Daniel Freitag had been able to test their bag behind a hard-core bike messenger in San Francisco – and when he returned to Zurich from his globetrot, he took the last square foot of our apartment and installed a computer. Packing lists, invoices, addresses: the printer added a new shade of yellow to the acoustic landscape I should call my home.
Apparently to make up for my pain and suffering, they gave me two Freewaybags – a large one and a small one. original models. The trash turned into a robust and stylish looking messenger bag of sorts. And neither is like the other. Drawing cutting lines on the printed tarpaulin, Daniel and Markus directed the art of every bag’s design. I had never thought of this project as a business before, but it slowly dawned on me that they were possibly more likely to go someplace with their bags than I was to go with my novel.
The rent for my new apartment was almost exorbitant, but I managed to move to a quiet side street. The walls were freshly painted, and that I am a proud owner/operator of gadgets such as the remote controlled heater in the bathroom. Even heated my towel rack.
Freitag Bros. no longer making bags in their apartment. They have a nice neat little business with 40 employees, a useful homepage (www.freitag.ch) and all that. Bags aren’t any longer sewn on site, some are outsourced to manufacturing amenities that employ disabled people. So you even have the social aspect – other than the ecological aspect of using truly recycled materials. This is serious. Words like «innovation», «creativity» and «niche» and other linguistic straws with which people make sense in the customer product field feel at home here.
At this point I would like to describe an encounter I had in New York not long ago: I was in town doing research for my new novel. I was directed to get my share of clubbing. The Lower East Side – I go there.
I found a bar that was pretty empty in terms of furniture – maybe only opened for a few hours, maybe that is what it was meant to be – you never know in these places… Lots of individuals there, their numbers and dress code proposed I was in hip place at the right time. Bingo. As I approached the bar for a drink, a really down-and-out looking man looked at me: «Nice jacket,» he said, referring to my Swiss nickel and dime raincoat. I only wear it when it is raining cats and dogs. «Looks like that FREITAG bag! Do you know them?” I checked to ensure I wasn’t wearing a FREITAG bag myself (we know the trick), and began telling the guy my story. He kept screaming: «Wow! That must be SO FUN!» He’s pretty good otherwise.
In conclusion, all I can say to people looking to get their hands on a FREITAG bag is: Folks, the FREITAG bag is still one solid piece of material – well done, and these two guys absolutely deserve their success. Sincerely, brother!