Learning Something New Isn’t Always In The Bag


We do indeed learn something new every day.

We either don’t realize it, dismiss it without a second thought, or outright choose to disregard the fact that we’ve just learned something new.

 Zigzagging across Switzerland,

I just learned something new.

Travel reveals, uncovers, informs.

Had I not been traveling in Switzerland, just walking about Zürich, its largest city, perhaps I never would have learned about Freitag.

Freitag – which means “Friday” in German – was established 20 years ago. It is a multimillion-dollar company. It is an environmentally friendly company. It makes money by recycling used truck tarp and turning them into stylish but functional handbags. Freitag’s bags are as ubiquitous as Swiss cheese and wristwatches. The company is pretty high-profile. And yet, I had never heard of it.

How was that even possible?

Great view from the top of Freitag store in Zurich

Great view from the top of Freitag store in Zürich

A high-profile, multimillion-dollar

company with global reach, and playing a big role to save the planet, more than two decades old, with its products everywhere, and I didn’t even know it existed? A blow to the self-worth of any journalist who prides himself on being in the know. 

As we walked about the city together, a Swiss friend pointed to the store and we entered. It’s an interesting store to begin with, built from old metal shipping containers stacked on top of each other to form several floors of retail space and a watchtower. Visitors are encouraged to climb to the top for a spectacular view of Zürich. Many just come to go to the top of the tower, not to shop, and that’s okay, a store clerk said.

He bagged one in Bern, Switzerland

He bagged this one in Bern, Switzerland

On every floor, the walls are lined with the bags, of all shapes, sizes and colors. My friend tried to explain Freitag’s concept, but then the store clerk took over. Basically, dirty, used truck tarp that would likely end up in landfills find new life as handbags. Freitag – the brainchild of Markus and Daniel Freitag – also uses discarded seatbelts and bicycle inner tubes in its products.

Based in Zurich, the company employs more than 150 workers, produces more than 400,000 products each year, and has stores in Berlin, Cologne, Davos, Hamburg, New York, Tokyo, Vienna, Lausanne, and Zurich.  It also has more than 450 retail partners worldwide and an online store based in Zürich. Freitag was established and is still headquartered in Zürich.

An old tarp is no old bag

An old tarp is no old bag

This “new” Swiss sensation does a big part toward saving the planet by recycling 440 tons of truck tarps per year, (that’s equivalent to a 68-mile-long line queue of transport trucks); 35,000 bicycle inner tubes and 288,000 car seatbelts.

And yet, I had never heard of it?

Since learning of its history and its existence, not a single day has gone by without noticing the bags on the streets in Switzerland. They are unmistakable. And they are everywhere and evidently hugely popular – at least in Switzerland – where they are a source of hometown pride.

I don’t know everything, of course, even if I’d like to think I do. I keep up on current events and can give you a summary of world events. And while I have no real interest in brand names or keeping up with the latest fashions, I have two eyes and notice things. Sorry Freitag – for 20 years you went unnoticed. Was it you or was it me?

Coffeehouses and Freitag seem to go shoulder to shoulder. Photo courtesy of Yannis Claude.

Coffeehouses and Freitag seem to go shoulder to shoulder. Photo courtesy of Yannis Claude.

But now I can’t take two steps just about anywhere in Switzerland – and perhaps the world, as the bags and assorted products have gone global – without bumping into someone with a Freitag bag. The bags are popular among people of all ages, but largely young and hip men and women who sling them over their shoulders.

Packing them in

Packing them in

I love environmentally conscious companies. I’m more likely to spend my money with them. Thanks to travel, every day I learn that I have so much more to learn. It could be about something that took me 20 years to learn or something that occurred today. But learning every day is a blessing, even if it’s something seemingly insignificant or unimportant as the existence of a bag made from tarp.

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