Design showcase: Freitag's new store in Kyoto

Swiss bag brand Freitag has opened a new store in Kyoto in Japan, a county with which it claims to have a special bond.

The store is the latest from the brand that allows customers to create their own unique products from offcuts from used tarpaulins that have previously been used on the sides of trucks. The brand launched a full DIY store in Zurich last year. The Kyoto store features a DIY corner for shoppers to finish their own products.

The ‘micro-factory’ Freitag-Sweat-Yourself store, in Grüngasse in Zurich’s district 4, saw the final stages of production brought into the store – where the products are completed by the customers. The feature is seen as an extension of Freitag’s positioning as a brand that offers individual products. Shoppers first chose their own components – the front, back and side panels, a pair handles and a patterned cut-off section – from a moving conveyor system. Under staff supervision, they then use a template to cut parts to shape, and a punching machine and a supersonic welding machine, before staff take over for final stitching. Meanwhie the customer enjoys an ‘after-work drink’.

According to Freitag, the brand shares a passion for the 'wabi-sabi' used aesthetic with Japanese consumers. The new Kyoto stores is located close to the ancient Nishiki market and the metropolitan Nakagyo-ku pedestrian precinct, which the brand considers a reflection of the mix of old and new that its products represent. 'Only in Kyoto do the old and well work so well together,' according to Freitag.

The 80 sq m (861 sq ft) Kyoto store is inspired by and modelled on industrial-style logistics warehouses, in particular the one at Freitag's Zurich headquarters. Customers are welcomed into this industrial environment and invited to experience for themselves the creation of their unique bags. The store also stocks around 1,100 pre-made, unique bags.

A lifesize mural of a truck has been created on the side elevation of the store, to remind customers and passers-by of the origin of Freitag's materials.

Freitag opened its first Japanese store, in Tokyo, in 2011. The brand sells a range of backpacks, messenger bags, wallets, and other items. It also lets customers swap old products for new ones if they tire of them.

With a long-term environmental commitment to reusing materials, Freitag removes used tarpaulins from around 6,700 trucks every year. Brand founders Markus and Daniel Freitag were inspired to create the brand in 1993 when, looking for waterproof and sturdy bags to carry their graphic design work they noticed the colourful traffic passing their flat.

The brand is now stocked in more than 400 outlets globally, as well as running 24 of its own stores. The company operates via a Holacracy system of self-management instead of a hierarchical structure.

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