In conversation with Trakke Founder, Alec Farmer...
Waxed Canvas has been around for centuries, but it’s as relevant now as it has ever been. As consumers continue to focus on slow fashion, longevity and sustainability, Waxed Canvas is becoming an increasingly popular choice for luggage as well as clothing. Unlike synthetic fabrics, waxed canvas can be reproofed time and time again. Anyone who has seen an old Barbour jacket will know that this stuff stays functional for decades. It’s a natural fibre. It’s strong. It’s durable - and It wears in, not out. So the longer you use it, the more character it develops. A well used waxed canvas backpack tells the story of its journey in the marks and creases that it bears.
We have been working almost exclusively with Scottish Made waxed canvas for over a decade now. We’ve crafted tens of thousands of backpacks, messenger bags, pouches and accessories, right here in our workshop in Glasgow. And every bag we make is guaranteed for life. It’s part of our commitment to making things that last - and it’s also a commitment to our customers - a promise that, whatever happens, we have their back.
And it’s just as well, because life as a backpack isn’t easy. Our bags go out into the world and fly on planes, ride on trains, hike up mountains and cycle through downpours. They get dropped, thrown, scuffed, yanked and torn - and when they do, we repair them. It’s good customer service, for sure, but it also helps us to build better bags. The more bags we repair, the more patterns we see. We learn our bags weaknesses, and we begin to understand how the way it’s made might impact the way it wears. Then, every couple of years, we pool all of these learnings and we reiterate our designs. We design our wear points. We reinforce key panels. We redesign features that seem to be susceptible to failure. Our repairs process facilitates a continuous loop of iteration and reiteration, all founded in real-world experiences.
It’s just one way that we attempt to lower our impact on the environment. The vast majority of the carbon footprint of a backpack is created by us, right here, at the manufacturing stage - so it’s our responsibility to make sure that the carbon investment we make in each bag is worthwhile. We have to build things to last - and crucially, we have to look after them throughout their lifetime.
But we’re all human. We fall in and out of love with the things we own. Whatever we wish for, whatever we build for, it’s a safe bet that there are some Trakke bags gathering dust in a lonely closet somewhere in the world. That’s where our Remade program comes into play. We buy these bags back from our customers. However old, however damaged, we’ll take it. When it comes back to our workshop, we repair it, restore it and find another customer willing to give it a fresh lease of life.
For us, it’s another way of preventing our bags from languishing in a basement and ensuring that the carbon investment we made was worthwhile. For our community, it’s an opportunity to buy discontinued models, unusual colour ways or just pre-loved bags that have a ton of character baked in. It’s a win win. And yet we’re often asked if this kind of commitment to ‘Built to Last’ means that we don’t get repeat customers. Quite the opposite. When you find a brand that you love, and the brand takes care of you, you will always go back for more. You accessorise. You buy gifts for friends and family. You recommend it to a friend.
Ultimately, it all comes down to looking ahead. Our focus on longevity, and the schemes we put in place to support it benefit us just as much as they benefit our community. Crucially, they prevent our bags from ending up in landfill, like so many products do. That’s not to say we have all the answers. We continue to learn, and continue to grow. This year is one of those years where we refresh our range. As I write, I’m being pulled onto the shop-floor to discuss upgrades and improvements to a seemingly endless stream of products that only two years ago, we thought were fine. I don’t think we got it wrong in the last design refresh. We’ve simply learned a lot since.
Over the next twelve months, these updated products will be launching alongside all-new designs. We’re excited to let them loose ‘in the wild’. Right now, I think they’re perfect - but I’m a bit biased. We’ve tested them as best we can, but nothing compares to the real world - so give it a couple of years, and no doubt we’ll be iterating once again. After all, design is a journey - not a destination.
Image credits: Too Gallus