Freitag… Every Day

Freitag (which means “Friday” in German) started as a phenomenon of Zürich’s urban subculture in 1993 when Markus und Daniel Freitag, both brothers and graphic designers, had a genius, sustainable business idea: They created courier bags made from used truck tarps, used car seat belts, used air bags and used bicycle inner tubes. The upcycled Freitag bags are functional yet individual at the same time. Every product has a cool, one-of-a-kind design. Now, fifteen years later, Freitag is a cult brand known all over the world.

When I moved to New York, I didn’t have to think twice if I should take my Freitag bags with me. Beyond my personal relationship with this brand, I also have a professional connection: In 2007, I had the pleasure to work for Freitag with my former employer in Zürich, the branding firm Scholtysik Niederberger Kraft.

Since the original messenger bag, the collection has grown to 40 different bag and case designs. The products are still manufactured at the in-house factory in the industrial Kreis 5 district of Zürich.

By the way: I love how the Freitag brothers present themselves. The following picture was taken in the factory’s cafeteria. Markus and Daniel are drinking Comella, a Swiss chocolate drink, which is considered as a cult product (when I was a kid, Comella was THE drink you had at school). You might have to be Swiss in order to understand and like this kind of humor…?

In the spring of 2006, the Freitag brothers landed another genius hit with their flagship store in the trendy quarter, Zürich West. Still in line with their concept of upcycling, they built a tower made of 17 rusted shipping containers in a pile 85 feet high (a tall building for Zürich). The Freitag tower doesn’t only offer a unique shopping experience – the “postcard” view of Zürich from top of the tower is priceless.

In 2007, the Freitag brothers picked Scholtysik Niederberger Kraft for further development of their brand strategy and visual identity. The rapid and continued growth of their business was a challenge in terms of their strategic and operational brand management. The brothers couldn’t control all the marketing initiatives and branded materials launched by the countless shops all around the world. Strategic, communicative and visual guidelines were needed in order to further develop the brand nationally and internationally. After 15 years, it was necessary to rethink and question their brand positioning. The brothers wanted to take Freitag to the next level: from the bag, their first and most popular product, to the brand, which stands for the whole concept behind Freitag.

During my last few months in Switzerland, I had the pleasure to work for this project in the phase of brand/competitor/market analysis, and the further development of the brand positioning and identity. The workshops with the Freitag brothers and their marketing team were incredibly inspiring and demanding. One of the biggest challenges was transferring a former sub-cultural brand to a global cult brand without losing its inherent unique spirit. Based on the new brand positioning and identity, the design team further developed the new brand design. The result was a clear and strong foundation for the Freitag brand as well as the necessary instruments for targeted brand management and future expansion of the company. For more information, please download the case study from the SNK website.

In New York, I contribute to the brand’s success story by sporting my beloved Freitag bags. I hope that seeing cool bags such as the Freitag bags helps encouraging more people to use reusable bags instead of the polluting plastic bags.

Are you looking for a bag, which is not only functional, but also cool and sustainable? Check out the Freitag online shop or visit a shop carrying Freitag products in NYC, for example Cite at 131 Greene Street. Or even better: Design your own Freitag bag!

One last thing: Freitag bags have been copied lots of times. By far the most outright and embarassing copy (and therefore unintentionally funny) was produced by Migros, one of the most popular discount stores in Switzerland. The bag’s name was Donnerstag (Thursday) instead of Freitag (Friday).