Photo courtesy of ETHNOTEK

ETHNOTEK Bags Celebrate World Culture

by Michelle Schusterman Jul 6, 2011
Matador community member Jake Orak’s new company is on a mission to create incredible backpacks that support tribes around the globe.

In 2007, Jake Orak was trekking through the highlands of Northern Vietnam, a region home to over 50 ethnic minority groups and nomadic tribes. He observed how they lived off the land, grew most of what they needed and bartered with handmade goods for the rest. After a day of hiking, he was taking a break in Bac Ha when inspiration struck.

“Rather than manufacture preachy blogs about the death of culture or try to flood tourists into these regions as if these tribes were animals on display, why not use the tools I already have in a very low-impact way to get the message out?

The region I was in had some of the most amazing embroidered and hand-loomed textiles I had ever seen. I was a bag designer at the time. Why not combine the two by offering a piece of handmade global culture in a product that is practical and useful for our busy everyday lives?

Boom, ETHNOTEK was born.”

I’ve got a box of four of these bags sitting right next to me, and they’re seriously gorgeous. If the pics and specs on ETHNOTEK’s site aren’t enough to convince you, here’s five more reasons to love ‘em:

1. All bags are limited editions. As a result of how time consuming and detail oriented the hand-processing is, ETHNOTEK gets the fabric in very small runs. For example, the Guatemala and Vietnam threads have only 50-60 pieces total and once they’re gone, they’re gone. Never to be repeated!

2. It typically takes a family 2-3 months to hand-dye and weave only 25 yards of intricate textiles like the ones featured in these bags. This is gear made with serious care and attention to detail.

3. The company never dictates what designs the weaver works on. They just stop in every now and then to see what’s new and buy up whatever they have at the time.

4. This non-intrusive sourcing model allows them to continually update their line in small batches, and assures customers that what they are getting is most likely a piece that no one else will ever have.

5. The front panel of the bag, called the THREAD, is removable. This is the piece with the custom design, and all current and new ones are sold separately so you can continue to update your bag’s look without paying for a whole new pack.

And that’s just the front panel – the backpack itself has some pretty sick features as well, like a body made of 84-denier ballistic nylon, side slip, zipper and mesh pockets, snap-buckle straps that can help attach items like yoga mats and tent poles to your bag, a compartment for 15-17” MacBooks and PC laptops, a padded back panel, airmesh to reduce back sweatage, padded shoulder straps and by now I hope you’ve clicked over to their site because clearly this is a product worth checking out.

Interested in learning more about ETHNOTEK bags? Stay tuned for an upcoming review and giveaway!

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