Handmade from recycled mailbags, Karlen’s aptly named ‘mailbag’ features an inner pocket, leather trim and a handsome aesthetic. Karlen, based in a small village named Törbel in Switzerland, employs 12 local women providing a key source of employment in this village of 500.
There is a wonderful story about the company in the April issue of Current Concerns. Here is an excerpt:
What is striking in the operation of the Karlen family, besides the pleasant working environment and the prudent management, is the careful treatment of the materials used. First, lots of things, originally produced for another purpose, comes to a second life. A good example is the usage of the military blankets. The Swiss army made the last procurement in the late 60s. Now the surplus blankets rest in a warehouse of the company Karlen and will serve people in a new form. The same is true for the material of the seat covers and the fabric of the sun blinds of former SBB-wagons. Quite recently, also the tough canvas of the mail bags and the dark blue fabric of former uniforms of the Swiss Postal Service is being processed. They are cleaned and used again. Traces of the former usage belong to the characteristics of the final products and to tell the history of previous use. – But also in the other new materials an emphasis is put on quality materials of Swiss origin. This will benefit other small companies, jobs will be preserved, unemployment payments and other social costs will be saved. Because of the short transportation distances within Switzerland the production is also environmentally sound.
The products of the company Karlen Swiss in Törbel are no shortlived fashion gags. They are practical, rugged and attractive. The satisfaction of Karlen Swiss is, that their customer receive a product with added value with the purchase.