Ethnotek Backpacks & Messenger Bags
I’ve been a huge fan of global culture ever since I first launched my World Music column, “A Different Drum,” for INsite Magazine back in 1994. So I was delighted recently to discover ETHNOTEK, a hip young company with the tagline “Celebrating & promoting world culture one bag at a time.”
Founded by veteran traveler Jake Orak, the Ethnotek name is a combination of the words ethnology (a form of anthropology dealing chiefly with the comparative and analytical study of cultures) and technology (the methods and tools that a society has developed in order to facilitate the solution of its practical problems). Their line of socially responsible backpacks and messenger bags offers a great balance of style and function, boasting limited edition designs hand-crafted in Fair Trade arrangements with indigenous communities all around the world.
These traditional textile designs are acquired through direct trade (i.e. actually going there), which eliminates the middleman and ensures that the money is directly going to the local artisans. But the coolest feature is that these sustainably sourced “THREADS” are interchangeable, meaning each bag has limitless design possibilities (new THREADS run $29-$49 for messenger bags and $29-$89 for backpacks, with the embroidered ones from Vietnam the most expensive).
The Ethnotek messenger bag we got last year quickly become our favorite laptop bag we’ve ever owned: Not only is it stylish, comfortable, and extremely durable, but it’s big enough to hold both of our laptops/cords and still have room left over for snacks and such.
So we were really excited this summer to get a sample of their new “Wayu” line of backpacks, which are available in 8 exotic designs hand-crafted in Ghana, Guatemala, Indonesia and Vietnam. Made from water-resistant nylon, the 25-liter pack measures 12 x 18.4 x 7.2, with an interior compartment large enough to hold 13-15 inch laptops.
As the company’s website says, each Ethnotek bag is like “a flag that you wave which says, ‘I care.'” We’re proud to wave that flag of global culture every time we travel. –Bret Love
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