This image was taken when my dad and I woke up at 4am to catch a flight to embark on Day 1 of visiting factories. That was the day I knew every decision I made would matter, and would have an effect greater than just me. Much of fashion is an unsustainable cycle of excess and waste and exploitation, but it doesn’t have to be. And I knew as the sole decision maker of a small brand that was starting fresh, that I could do things my way. It's both an intimidating and empowering feeling.
We make vegan bags, but I don't consider Freja to be a "vegan" company. Veganism is a philosophy that seeks to avoid the exploitation and cruelty of animals. But for me, and for us, Freja stands for so much more than that. We seek to avoid all exploitation - of animals, of humans, of precious materials, and of the earth around us, and give more than we take whenever possible.
“Animal-free” is the bare minimum, but it shouldn’t be the standard for calling a product vegan.
It’s not enough to use animal-free materials, if they were created with harsh chemicals and toxins, or weren’t designed to last.
It’s not enough to use animal-free materials, if the bag was made in poor working conditions, with disregard for any pair of hands that touched it along the way.
It’s not enough to make animal-free bags, if they’re overproduced with lots of leftover inventory.
It’s not enough to be an animal-free company, if you don’t communicate with customers and resolve their concerns in a timely and respectful manner.
So yes, we make “vegan” bags. But we stand for so much more than that. I want the term vegan to be a reflection of our values and the care we put into each and every bag.
Our material is custom made for us my by college best friend (and roommate’s) family. Ultrafiber is water-based (rather than oil-based), incredibly supple and durable, and has a lifespan of ten years compared to the typical 2 years of PU. We order just enough for each collection, never more. Each bag is handmade in a small family owned factory, and we pledge 2% of our profits back to them each year. The factory is located two hours from my parents home, and they personally inspect every bag before it’s shipped to me. We start preorders one month before we start manufacturing, so we know exactly how many bags in what colors to make. Each bag is made in small batches of 250 or fewer, so I can personally inspect each one and make sure it’s perfect. I know exactly what goes into each bag, so you can feel comfortable knowing you have a bag that’s ethically made with care at every step of the way.
We won’t grow quickly doing things this way. That was never our goal in the first place. I didn’t start Freja to become the biggest company, or make the most bags. I want to make the absolute best bags for people who will cherish them the most. I want to constantly be challenging the status quo and asking how we can be better. I want everyone who wears our bags to feel confident about where it came from, and how it was made.
That’s what vegan means to us.