One man’s rubbish is another man’s treasure — ever heard that before? It certainly held true for Alec Farmer, founder of British bag makers Trakke. Back in 2010, he was a student in Glasgow picking up offcuts of material from skips around the city and transforming them into messenger bags for the local cycling community in his lounge. With no experience in textiles and just a stall at Barras Market, it could have stopped there — after all, this was just a side project designed more to indulge Farmer’s creative instincts than anything else.
As it happened, though, the quirky bags attracted a cult following among the city’s cyclists for their innovative design and authenticity. It wasn’t long before the demand outstripped Farmer’s capacity to produce quality bags — and if there’s one thing Trakke refuses to budge on, it’s quality.
The next evolution of Trakke — into the specialist, well-regarded manufacturer it is today — had two crucial stages. First, Farmer needed to upgrade his resources, as scavenging from skips wasn’t going to cut it on the wider market. Instead, he sourced the best quality materials available from traditional British industries: waxed canvas from Dundee, stainless steel from Welsh mines, webbing from Derbyshire; these stalwarts of British craftsmanship formed the essence of Trakke’s products. Secondly, Farmer harnessed the power of social media to expand from a small, cult following to a global audience, and created an online platform for ordering them. Trakke was born.
These days, they occupy a specialist workshop on the shores of the River Clyde in Glasgow, not a stone’s throw from where it all started. Farmer assembled a crack team of dedicated tailors and artisans to grow Trakke’s production whilst retaining the quality standards that established the brand in the first place. Each bag is handmade with meticulous precision.
While their production and materials may embody the heritage of traditional British craftsmanship — think waxed canvas, Harris Tweed and Welsh stainless steel — Trakke have modernised each product to suit the urban jungle. Just like Farmer’s original creations, it’s a beautiful fusion of old and new: thick waxed canvas wards against wind and rain (they are from Scotland, after all), with dedicated space inside for your Macbook.
For 2019, they've upped their game again with a brand new range of products, reinventing classics like the Fingal, Assynt and Bairn while introducing new designs. Simplify and expand is the unofficial mantra of this redesign: the Fingal is an urban explorer’s daydream, with a padded laptop sleeve and interior organisation; the Assynt, now a standard 20l size, is the perfect daypack for city streets or Highland summits; the Bairn is purpose built for cyclists, designed by cyclists. By refining these core products, Trakke have afforded time to build out their range with new, exquisite rucksacks, from the carry-on Storr to the rugged, hiking Vorlich.
With years of manufacturing experience behind them, Trakke have isolated weaknesses in the previous range and upgraded accordingly - their new waxed canvas, for example, is heavier and has a more dense weave, for a durable product with a dry finish. Each bag is designed to thrive on city streets and Highland summits alike.
Nor is this obsession with handmade, bespoke craftsmanship simply about hipster credentials (though you’d be forgiven that assumption given the ubiquity of beards and single-speed bikes piling into the workshop each morning). It takes a lot energy to produce a new rucksack, particularly using such hard-wearing materials, and Trakke are conscious of their carbon footprint. Part of their decision to source materials from the UK is to keep their haulage costs as minimal as possible. But it’s the longevity of their products that matters most here — each bag is designed to last a lifetime, and will remain functional for all that time if cared for; the waxed canvas remains waterproof if wax is reapplied every now and then. The scars it will pick up along the way tell a tale of the bag’s journey, from everyday adventures to far-flung travels. It’s a complete reinvention of the bag for life.
Trakke are convinced that their approach to manufacturing is the best out there, and we’re inclined to agree. It supports British industries, reduces their carbon footprint and creates stylish, practical products that increase value with age. The message is clear: Trakke backpacks are designed to wear in, not out.
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