AFTER a challenging two-and-a-half years, Glasgow outdoor lifestyle brand Trakke is “busier and stronger than ever before”, according to founder Alec Farmer.
“It is amazing,” he says. “Lockdown was challenging – we make bags for people on the go and no-one was going anywhere. It was quite scary.
“However, after closing for six weeks, we reopened and started to make face masks. For every two we sold, we donated one to someone in need, which was great. We could offer a product that was helpful to people and support different charities. and organizations at the same time. ”
Alec adds: “Now we are busier and stronger than ever before, with lots of exciting things happening.”
Alec started Trakke from a stall in Glasgow’s Barras market in 2010, selling bags he designed and made himself from offcuts of materials collected from skips around the city.
Realizing very quickly that if you live in Glasgow a waterproof backpack is a sensible idea, Alec sourced waxed canvas – a Scottish invention that has its roots in the fishing industry – from Halley Stevensons in Dundee to create a range of durable, stylish bags that are also naturally waterproof.
The company is now based at SWG3 in Finnieston – a new showroom will open there next month – and it employs 17 staff who work a four-day week. Trakke works closely with local colleges to provide jobs for new garment production and design graduates, and boasts a significant overseas market – 50 per cent of sales are exports, with 25 per cent going to the US.
“Our focus this year has been on new products and collaborations,” explains Alec.
“Collaboration has always been important to us. We are a small British manufacturer and so we want to work with other small British manufacturers, supporting the wider British economy.
“We’re working with a sunglasses company in Kilsyth – one of only a handful still making sunglasses in the UK – on a range of high-end, plant-based frames, and with Port Glasgow-based Vango, who provide us with waste tent material, which we transform into bespoke pieces. It should launch in July and we’re calling it Past Tents. ”
He adds, with a grin: “I love a good pun. “The key to collaboration, I feel, is that we should be producing something neither one of us could do without the other – better than the sum of its parts, in other words.”
Sustainability is at the heart of Trakke’s operations. Since its inception, the company has run a repair service, which means customers can bring damaged bags back to the workshop for mending. Last year, it introduced a “buy-back” initiative: Remade by Trakke, where customers can trade in an old Trakke bag, no matter its age or condition, and receive a gift card towards their next purchase.
“We restore the old bags, or – if they are beyond salvaging – turn them into something else,” explains Alec. “I always wanted to make the products live for as long as possible. There is nothing worse than thinking they might just end up in landfill. ”
Almost all of the returned bags have stories attached. “I love the fact people tell us all about their backpacks, where they have been, what’s happened to them, when they bring them in for repair,” smiles Alec.
New ranges for this year include the Canna, a small backpack for everyone, and a micro backpack that they’ve called the Wee Yin.
“It’s lovely, very on-trend, but also perfect for kids,” says Alec. “We are finding that more and more of our customers have children now, and want the whole family to be kitted out with Trakke. Our community is changing, our customers are changing – we have been in Glasgow for 12 years now and while I was 20 when I started, I’m now 33, and my outlook on life has changed too. The business is evolving around its customers. ”
Trakke is also working on a range of waterproof bags made from wool woven on the Isle of Bute and bonded with waxed cotton, and has plans for a clothing collection next year.
“We introduced a jacket in 2020, which was a huge success – we had a limited run of 120 and they sold out very quickly,” says Alec. “So there are lots of little stories happening, lots of adventures in fabric and design.
“The main thing is we are still here, still pushing, still developing our sustainability ethos and evolving our business.”