Made from old truck tarps and bike tubes, FREITAG new luggage, the Zippelin has raised over $300K on Kickstarter.
Based in Zurich, Switzerland, FREITAG has been making durable bags since 1993. Recently, the brand launched a rolling suitcase, the Zippelin, on Kickstarter. In order to make the luggage as lightweight as possible, FREITAG designers employed a unique method: replacing a heavy frame with and inflatable bike tube. The bike tube gives the luggage rigidity, and when deflated, the luggage can be rolled up and easily stored.
The Zippelin weighs just 3.6 kg (about 8 pounds) and has a capacity of 85 liters.
I had a chance to conduct an interview with FREITAG product developer, Nicola Stäubli:
Jonathan: FREITAG is relatively unknown in the U.S. market. Tell our readers a little about the brand and ethos.
Nicola Stäubli: In 1993, our founders Markus and Daniel, being graphic designers at the time, were looking for a functional, water-repellent and robust bag to hold their creative work. Inspired by the multicolored heavy traffic that rumbled through the transit intersection in front of their flat in Zurich, Switzerland, they developed a messenger bag from used truck tarpaulins, discarded bicycle inner tubes and car seat belts. This is how the first FREITAG bags took shape in the living room of their shared apartment – each one recycled, each one unique. Since then, FREITAG has been injecting used truck tarps with new life as functional bags and accessories. We supply urban individuals all over the world with a choice of over 70 different bags, as well as compostable textiles developed in-house from the bottom up, called F-ABRIC.
What was the inspiration behind the ZIPPELIN?
For more than 20 years now, we have been using old truck tarpaulins to make robust, multifunctional bags that all look completely different from each other. So, it didn’t sit well having a travel bag that looked just like everybody else’s at the airport – and of course a lot of our fans have yearned for a big, rugged, one-off travel bag too. The flash of inspiration it took to transform a limp old piece of truck tarp into a stable, large-format travel bag that, even only half-full, wouldn’t exceed the free baggage limit imposed by the world’s airlines took its time coming. The solution we finally hit on – a common-or-garden inner tube you can inflate with a standard pump – was inspired by our favourite means of transports – the bicycle.
How does FREITAG usually come up with new product ideas and what inspires your designs?
We like to think and act in cycles – whether we’re conceiving a new product made of recycled truck tarpaulin or compostable materials or designing a reusable product packaging. Another very important part of our design philosophy is recontextualization. This meanstaking something out of its original context and putting it into a new one – as we do it by giving old tarpaulins a new purpose as an accessory, or by piling up discarded and rusty freight containers to create a Flagship store. When it comes down to the product, we design and manufacture only accessories (or clothes, since 2014) that we would want to wear ourselves!
What’s the story behind the name ZIPPELIN?
Since an inflatable bicycle inner tube gives the travel bag its structure and is the core of its unusual construction, the notion of an air travel ship, a Zeppelin, came up. And the very same inner tube – protected with its own compartment made of used truck tarpaulins – is accessible through a zipper. That’s why we started to call it Zippelin during product development– and stuck to it!
What type of traveler was the ZIPPELIN designed for?
Zippelin was designed with convenience in mind for every stage of travel. For short distances, it can be quickly converted into a shoulder bag when approaching rough terrain. But above all, it solves the storage problem facing luggage owners without an attic or cellar to call their own. When your vacation’s over and you let out the air, the 85-liter bag shows its true greatness. Rolled up, Zippelin takes up no more space in your closet than a shoebox.
FREITAG’s products are clearly high-end and made to last. It seems that a concern many potential buyers of this luggage have is the price. What would you say to those on the fence?
Every Zippelin is a unique piece, hand-cut in in our factory in Zurich (being our home, but also one of the most expensive production sites in the world). The easiest way to make people understand the price of a FREITAG bag is to show them our production site in Zurich. Transforming old transport truck covers into functional, unique bags takes place in five highly-complex stages at the factory:
Our five tarp buyers – also known as truck spotters – are either on the phone or scoping out the truck stops of Europe to hunt down beautiful truck tarps. Once acquired, we free the grimey, gigantic tarps by cutting off eyelets, straps and belt. Afterwards, these tarps are washed in huge washing machines, using the rainwater that falls on our factory roof. Then, our bag designers carve out exquisite, unique designs from the tarps using their templates and cutters. We entrust the sewing of your ZIPPELIN to experienced partners, who understand how to carefully stitch together tarps that are sturdier than leather. Back at the factory, the bags undergo a tough quality control and are being photographed one after another, to be uploaded to our online store. After having seen all the laborious steps behind a bag and being aware of all the ecological production processes of our factory, most people don’t call our products “expensive” anymore.
Where does FREITAG see itself in the next 5 years in relation to the luggage industry?
As a brand, with our messenger bags, totes and backpacks, we have been mostly known for bags proving themselves in the inner and intercity sector, so far… The enthusiastic responses to our Zippelin Kickstarter campaign definitely encouraged us to consider the intercontinental bag sector as a playground, too!
What are your thoughts on the FREITAG Zippelin? Leave a comment below.