BERLIN — Swiss accessories brand Freitag is thinking outside the bag.
The company, founded by brothers Daniel and Markus Freitag, got its start 20 years ago, repurposing truck tarpaulins into trendy messenger satchels. Now, the ecologically minded company is moving into sustainable, biodegradable ready-to-wear — again finding a foundation in fabric, but this time by developing its own from scratch. A small clothing line made from the new material, which has been dubbed F-abric, launches Friday.
The project started with a search for sturdy, environmentally appropriate, European-made workwear for the 160 production and distribution employees in Freitag’s Zurich headquarters. The brothers decided to take matters into their own hands, which began five years of textile development and work with a designer and sample tailor. The end products — F-abric — are made from flax and hemp grown in France, Netherlands and Belgium, and modal from Austrian beech wood. Production is done in Europe and Tunisia — limiting the mileage of each garment to 1,600 miles distance from Zurich.
To start, the F-abric line includes bast broken twill chinos priced at 190 euros, or $242, and a short jumper work dress (145 euros, or $185), available in industrial green, ocher and dark blue. There are also men’s and women’s versions of two jersey T-shirts — a long-sleeve pocket Henley (98 euros, or $125) and a pocket T-shirt (65 euros, or $83), in industrial green, dark blue, black and ivory. Pocket linings, labels, selvage and thread are all compostable, as are the ivory nut buttons on the shirts. There is also a limited-edition hybrid backpack (190 euros, or $242) that uses F-abric and tarp elements, and can be disassembled for recycling.
Only one part of the F-abric line could not be sourced from biodegradable materials — sturdy metal trouser buttons. So Freitag developed a removable, screw-back version — the F-button — from Zamac (an alloy of zinc, aluminum, magnesium and copper).
“The philosophy of Freitag is transformed into a new segment,” said Daniel Freitag. “I think this is why people are quite positive and interested in the story, and I think there is a story to tell.”
Some aspects of the new line do require a little extra explanation. To assure customers that their pants will not start to fall apart on their body, but rather when composted for three months in the right conditions for decay, Freitag has created a publication that clarifies the process.
Starting Friday, F-abric garments will be carried at Freitag stores in Berlin, Zurich, and Vienna. Freitag Stores in Lausanne, Switzerland; Tokyo Shibuya, and Hamburg, Germany, will follow in November. Online availability is not expected before the end of the year. Freitag has 10 freestanding stores. The brand’s range of colorful accessories is carried by more than 450 retail partners globally. Some will also sell Freitag’s clothing line. The first ones include Magazin concept stores in Stuttgart and Munich, Germany, which will stock the line as of mid-November, and Milan’s Eral 55, Florence’s Société Anonyme and Tonolo Selezioni in Venice, which will pick up the F-abric line at the end of November.
Daniel Freitag said they will over time broaden the F-abric range with new garments, and new colorways, but sales were never the guiding goal of the project, nor will profits be expected as an automatic result.
“Of course for a small company, which Freitag still is, it was a big investment — and one day we hope it will pay off. But it was all financed with our resources. So we also said, if it goes wrong at least we have fabric enough for some years to produce our own pants, and use it internally,” Freitag said.