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Trakke: Handmade in Glasgow

Jordan Gibbons
13 Apr 2016

Trakke bags are popular among the adventurers of the world and now it's bringing its skills and expertise to cyclists.

‘All the products start here, with this piece of paper, and they eventually become bags.’

Here is a small workshop in Glasgow, which is accessed by walking across the dancefloor of a closed nightclub, and here is the home of Trakke. Trakke make bags and is the brainchild of Alec Farmer, who started by sewing together old off-cuts of things he found in the street.

‘So I first started putting bags together when I was at university,’ says Farmer.

‘I would cut slices off old sofas or grab old bags out of skips. The first few bags were patchwork quilts made of five or six different materials and maybe two or three different zips.’

Alec soon started distributing the bags among friends on the courier scene in turn for advice on how the bags could be improved.

‘They would tell me to move a zip to here, or put a pocket there. I think some of those early bags are still going strong out there.’

Move along 

Once an order comes in, the paper tag goes onto a trolley where all the parts are kept to put it together. The first step is cutting out all the materials, which is usually done in batches to keep material usage efficient. All of the material is sourced from mills in the UK, with the odd exception.

‘Our Ventile cotton comes from NATO rejects. They use it to make flight suits for pilots and occasionally it fails their fire retardancy tests, which obviously isn’t a problem for bags.’

Some smaller items, such as pockets, are pre-maid and kept on shelves. Once the pattern is cut, the other items are collected such a buckles and webbing. Everything it designed to be over engineered.

‘The webbing buckles come from parachute harnesses,’ says Farmer. ‘Not only are they strong, they’re easy to use. They’re stainless steel too so they will last a lifetime.’

There’s an area to apply custom monograms and this process typifies Trakke: experimentation and practice.

‘It’s a combination of heat and pressure. Too much heat and the leather burns, too little and it doesn’t define the edge. Too much pressure and it tears, too little and it just rebounds back out. It’s just practice but we’ve got it down to a fine art.’ 

Old meets new

At Trakke HQ there’s an obvious juxtaposition between historical methods and modernisation. At one end of the workshop is a set of hammers and presses to install metal rings, along with an ancient sewing machine that was used to make the original Karrimor bags. While on the other side are the latest digital machines from Germany and specialist machines to form precise edges.

The same can be said of the materials used – while waxed cotton dates back to the 1800s, Trakke has produced a digitally printed waxed cotton for its ‘Timorous Beasties’ range – a process exclusive to them.

Trakke’s current bag range includes a few different sized messenger bags, with clever features such as fabric folds to hold water bottles. There is the intention to produce panniers (‘It’s something we get asked for all the time’) but no one produces an attachment system in the UK, which goes against one of Trakke’s core principles. That said, Cory Brenn – the resident bicycle fanatic, is leading the charge.

Trakke has given us a Ventile Og to test, which we think would make a great rack top bag as well as a decent commuting back pack, so look out for a review soon. 

Ps. Yes. That is a yurt.

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