We talk to Alec Farmer, founder of Trakke — an innovative business that uses local resources to make durable bags and outdoor gear...

Alec Farmer's moment of accidental inspiration came when he was a graphic design student, riding fixed wheel bikes, hanging out with bike couriers in Glasgow and looking for just the right kind of bag. He couldn’t find a messenger bag that combined the ‘simplicity and longevity’ he was after. Alec happened to have a sewing machine in his flat. He says that although his mum had taught him sewing as a child, he didn’t have any real experience in that area.

Creating the bags that became the foundation of Trakke was an ‘iterative’ time — he made two hundred and fifty bags in his first six months, learning his craft as he went. Almost ten years on, Alec says that we have a ‘fantastic team of makers in Glasgow that produce stuff far better than I could have done’.

Finding the raw materials for Trakke’s bags and outdoor gear was a learning process as well. Alec Farmer was always keen to make products in the UK and he started by using reclaimed materials that he found on the streets, cycling around to see what might turn up.

As the business developed, Alec decided that he wanted to find materials with a heritage behind them. He sought out ‘manufacturers who had survived hundreds of years’ and had come through the peaks and troughs of recessions. He settled on waxed canvas as one of his central fabrics. Why? ‘It’s a Scottish fabric,’ Alec says, ‘it was invented by Scottish fishermen in the 16th century.’ The company which produces it has been going since the mid-19th century. ‘They had the kind of provenance that I was looking for.’

Waxed canvas, Alec says, has other benefits too: compared with synthetic fibres, which are waterproof because the fibre is coated in a membrane, and which degrade, waxed canvas can be reproofed time and again and it’s ‘as good as before’. So it stays functional for longer.

And that helps give Trakke’s products, in Alec’s words, ‘sustainability through longevity’. He tells us he realised very early on that being responsible for ‘a bunch of things brought into the world every day’ was ‘a big deal, a big responsibility.’ Although he hasn’t always been able to find materials at the cutting edge of sustainability, he looks for elements that are produced locally such as his Scottish canvas, stainless steel from Wales and webbing from Derbyshire.

Still based in Glasgow, Scotland’s manufacturing history is important to him, as well as the great outdoors. ‘The landscape here is what we’re all about — the Highlands are on our doorstep.’

As Trakke prepares to celebrate ten years in business, Alec has his sights on new ideas and new products — he’s excited about his first prototype jacket. He’s come a long way in this decade, saying it’s been a ‘real learning curve’, but there are still new places to go.

You can find out more about Trakke on their website: https://trakke.co.uk.