April 2019 – The Idea
Freja was born during an especially stressful night of interview prep. It was my second to last semester of college. My friends were getting job offers left and right, and I felt the pressure.
It was 1am and I had turned my closet inside out trying to find a sleek tote for the most important interview of my life, that would also fit a change of clothes for an event afterwards. Do I go with the one that fits everything but has somehow developed unsightly permanent creases? How about the oversized black hole of a bag where pens and business cards disappear forever? Where were the beautiful, understated totes crafted with attention to the little details? I started dreaming about creating something of my own. Something small, something interesting. Something you could be proud to wear.
July 2019 – The Samples
A month later, I picked up our first sample from a Brooklyn-based sample maker. It cost $2,000 and looked like a first grade art class project. The next couple samples were somewhat improved, but not by much.
Important lessons were learned. Certain colors look better on certain finishes. Certain linings work better with different materials. Do we choose a softer vegan leather that feels more luxurious, or a stiffer one that ships well and will hold its shape better? And that's just the beginning. Weight of materials, size of pockets, depth of pockets, strap length, stitching vs gluing, zippers vs buttons, how the bag sits when empty, how the bag feels when filled…it takes so much time to find what’s just right, especially you have high standards and refuse to compromise. That includes finding a factory.
Sept 2019 – The Factory
I want Freja to stand for responsibility and transparency. I wanted to manufacture close to home - and that meant either the New York or China. We initially wanted to manufacture in New York City, and had our first sample made here, but the cost was astronomical (I was quoted $300 per bag for a 24 bag production run) and the existing infrastructure is not suitable for vegan leather bags. So even if we wanted to make the bags here, the materials and hardware would still need to be imported. My second choice was China, because that's where I'm from and where my parents currently live. I researched dozens of factories and narrowed down ten factories to tour. My dad and I visited each and got to know the people who worked there, and ended up choosing four to make a sample for me. I did not end up choosing the most established, biggest factory. I did not choose the factory that took me and my dad out to a fancy lunch. I chose a small, family owned factory of eighty workers. They took the longest to deliver a sample, but that was because they reworked it three times before deciding it met their own high standards.
Feb 2020 – The Launch
We made 300 bags for our first launch, in the colors latte and black - named after my newfound caffeine addiction. It's important to me for Freja to be a meaningful, lean operation, and to keep it that way even as we continue to grow. That means only ordering what we need, carrying low inventory, having little overhead, and minimal waste. It’s much more expensive than mass manufacturing, but it’s the only way I want to run my business. I don't believe in compromising between design, functionality, and our responsibility to the planet, and hopefully this little brand will be one step in the right direction. We still have a long way to go, and we’ll always strive to be better.
Dec 2022 - Freja Today
Writing this almost three years later - I've been lucky enough to meet some of you in person, and we held our first pop-up shop in NYC. We have multiple designs I'm really proud of, and an amazing small team to push the vision forward.
And while I no longer haul your orders down to UPS personally each morning (shoutout to our shipping team for getting your orders out ASAP) many things still stay the same :) We still only manufacture in small batches a few times a year, and you can always personally reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you so much for being a part of this journey and our story.