Have you ever wondered what the word Freitag (“Friday” in German) stands for on the bags you often see around town?

Regarded as a model of Swiss design, the Freitag messenger bag can be found in the design gallery of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Closer to home, they can be seen hung over the torsos of students, teachers, artists, journalists and housewives in Geneva and Lausanne and especially in Freitag’s home town, Zurich. That is where the brothers Freitag, Daniel and Markus, started making their messenger bags out of used truck tarps in 1993, first for themselves and their friends, and then commercially. Today the company employs a staff of over 130, processes around 400 metric tons of truck tarpaulins and sells 300,000 products worldwide.

Freitag bag seen at the FNAC in Geneva

I became interested in Freitag products because my artist son has been addicted to them for years. In Geneva, they can be found at the Archigraphy Book Store at the Halle de L’Ile, 1, Place l’Ile; Tel:  (41-22) 311 60 08. Besides the messenger bag, there are shopping bags, backpacks, purses, wallets, iBook sleeves and a “luxury” line of women’s hand bags. A few of these top line bags are available at Because I Love, 15, Quai de L’Ile in Geneva; Tel: (41-22) 320 21 11.

-Typical Freitag store display

All Freitag bags are made out of 100% recycled truck tarpaulins, bicycle inner tubes and seat belts. Each bag is unique, some with letters or numbers on a monochrome background. They are kind of grungy looking, but extremely sturdy and, of course, environmentally correct. They are not cheap (the classic messenger bag costs around CHF 200), but they can take a lot of wear. The “messenger generation” has adopted them.

Freitag’s flagship store in Zurich is located in the industrial, trendy quarter known as Zurich West. It is built of 17 rusted shipping containers in a pile 85 feet high. Inside, up steel staircases are four levels of display space and a viewing tower at the top. Freitag bags are now sold in many parts of the world through nine of its own stores, 400 sales partners and in its online shop.  It is always fun to find them in the most unexpected places. For instance, I saw Freitag bags in three different stores in Tokyo, where they are very popular.

Shop window displaying Freitag bags in Tokyo

The Zurich shop, which is worth a visit just to see the amazing building, is at Geroldstrasse 17, Zurich; Tel: (41-43) 366-9520; Website: www.freitag.ch.

We are a group of international women living in Geneva, Switzerland. If you would like to join the AIWC, please visit our website at http://www.aiwcgeneva.org/.