MM 09: Trakke

Alec Farmer / Trakke / Hand made bags / Waxed & Ventile Cotton

PEOPLE

During his final year of Graphic Design at the Glasgow School of Art, Alec Farmer started to hand make bags from reclaimed fabric, zips and materials commandeered from old suitcases.

After graduating, Alec continued to make his bags, simultaneously fulfilling his degree by branding and designing for the beginnings of Trakke. Yearning to utilise high quality materials, Alec set to design a range of handmade bags for day to day use.

Since his early years, Alec is now currently accompanied by a team of skilled production makers that meticulously produce their range of bags. With varying backgrounds and experience, each maker brings their own skill set to the entire operation.

PROCESS

Based in Finnieston — Glasgow, Trakke’s aptly named ‘base camp’ is situated inside the multidisciplinary creative hub, SWG3. The sizeable space hosts an entrance showroom, office, a full size yurt and of course; the workshop.

It’s within the workshop that each bag is taken from sheet fabric to the finished article. We were kindly allowed to visit Base Camp to speak with Alec. There, we got to see the incredible workspace and learn about the intricate processes that go into the making of each Trakke bag.

At Base Camp, each bag begins from carefully designed patterns used as guides to cut the fabric panels. These patterns determine panel positioning, size and shape, integral to the functionality and integrity of the intended bag.

DURABLE AND LUSTROUS, YOU HAVE A MATERIAL CHOICE BETWEEN WAXED OR VENTILE COTTON FOR YOUR BAG.

Waxed: The waxed cotton for the bags is sourced from an established 1800’s Dundee mill. Previously invented by Scottish fisherman in the 1800’s, sheet cotton was pregnated with linseed oil to create water repellent properties. Now produced pre-waxed, Trakke have their own custom line of waxed cotton made.

Ventile: Historically, ‘ventile cotton’ was developed in reaction to a natural flax fibre shortage. Highly durable, this trademarked and resilient weave is commonly found amongst military, aviation and medical applications. Ventile is unfortunately no longer made in the UK and has to be sourced from Switzerland. Using the heaviest grade available, Trakke use the same stock of Ventile Cotton as NATO & the RAF. Seen in their range, the green bags are finished in the official ‘NATO Green’.

It’s the durability these cottons that eventually shows signs of the sentimental patina that Alec so fondly speaks of. He describes the inextricable relationship of quality and time that are displayed in the subtle scuffs and scratches that the bags develop throughout their life.

“Waxed cotton isn’t just any normal material. Not only does it have great durability and weather proofing, over time, trip after trip, re-wax after re-wax, it develops its own character, telling the story of all your adventures.”

Seen below are some images of the Dundee mill where the cotton begins its life.

Photo taken, owned and edited by Trakke

“Highly durable, this trademarked and resilient weave is commonly found in military, aviation and medical environments”.

Photo taken, owned and edited by Trakke.

Photo taken, owned and edited by Trakke

“The wax in our bags goes deep inside the fibres ensuring your stuff stays safe and the weather stays out"

Photo taken, owned and edited by Trakke

INSIDE BASECAMP

Seen above, each pattern is used to plot each of the bags panels which are then scrupulously cut by hand from the rolls of cotton.

The large base camp workspace hosts a sizeable cutting table that enables the makersto lay-out and cut from the large rolls of ventile cotton.

“The cutting table. It’s where all our bags start their life, as 2d, undefined shapes and slices”

After hand-cutting, the sections of material are carefully stitched together, constructed with materials sourced from around the UK. The webbing is produced in Derbyshire. The foam for cushioning is made in Glasgow and the tweed comes from the Isle of Harris. Each of these elements is constructed and integrated into each bag by the Trakke makers.

Base Camp hosts an array of industrial sewing and riveting machines, each of varying eras and purposes for bag production. See the images below that show the stitching process carried out in-house.

Maker : Rowan Guy, using one of the new sewing machines inside Base Camp.

Accompany to the durable Dundonian cotton is sturdy metal hardware. Consisting of standardised buckles and D rings, these too are made within the UK. Similar to cookie cutting, this process ‘blanks’ each of the buckles out from the stainless steel ream.

Further to the longevity of the bag, they are purposefully void of moving parts. Trakke have purposefully eliminated this often fatal mechanical weakness found in plastic buckles; commonly the doom of many backpacks. Seen below, an industrious image featured in Trakke’s social media depicts the steel coil from which the buckles are stamped in Wales.

“Each of our stainless steel buckles begins its life in a small factory in Wales, on a coil of steel tape like this, ready to be stamped and polished before being sewn onto one of our bags. With no moving parts, each one is built to last a lifetime”

Buckles and D Ring attached to a black waxed cotton bag flap.

The serif Trakke ‘T’ buckle, a showcase of the utility branding via the stencil typeface used in the company logo. This type lends itself to the industriousness of the blanking process whilst underpinning the entire ethos of the Trakke ethos itself.

“EQUIPMENT THAT IS DURABLE, VERSATILE AND TIMELESS”

PRODUCT

The bags themselves sport a timeless aesthetic. A timelessness associated with 1950’s mountaineering equipment or explorers. Nostalgic notions of adventure and scout trips come to mind for those in their childhoods who were ‘enrolled’. Baden Powell would be proud.

The Óg backpack

The Findo backpack — Black or ‘Scout Green’ — Inspired by 1950’s Boy Scout packs.

Mule — Messenger Bag

The theme of adventure is dominant through the entirety of Trakke; the branding, the bags and so are the very people that make them. Indicative to the very soul of the brand, the makers themselves are active advocates of the company ethos.

Both individually and collectively, explorations and weekend trips are seemingly an average occurrence for the makers at Trakke. Often seen on their social media and their ongoing journal, recorded adventures are a big part of the lifestyle of the team. Below are images of location trips to the isles of Skye and Jura.

“We believe in creating a product that can be used anywhere, everyday for years”
“We want your Trakke bag to be the bag you look at in 10, even 20 years time and be reminded of all the adventures, trips or holidays you’ve had with that one pack”

Not always necessarily mountaineering equipment, Alec pointed out that Trakke bags aren’t just for people that lead extreme or activity based lifestyles. Indeed, there is no mention that you must be an avid hill walker or rock climber to justify buying a bag from Trakke.

In reality, most people will more than likely wear it to & from work or on the tube. Although the members of the Trakke team may often be found exploring a gorge or negotiating a cave somewhere, Alec pointed out that everyone has a different idea of adventure.

If you happen to be in or around Glasgow or better yet Finnieston, we urge you to drop past SWG3 and make a visit to Base Camp. Trakke hosts a highly skilled and welcoming team that are redefining factory work. Young, vibrant and talented, I wish Trakke every success for 2016 and beyond. I look forward to meeting with Alec and the team soon.

A big thanks to Alec and Madeleine for their time.

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