In a recent letter addressed to their customer community, Martina Brimmer and Jason Goodman of Seattle’s Swift Industries announced that they’re beginning a gradual shift toward producing most of their readymade bags overseas. Through a partnership with Carry Gear Solutions, Swift Industries will be working with a manufacturer in Surabaya, Indonesia, to produce their stock bags, built from materials sourced throughout Asia.
This move represents a somewhat surprising departure for the brand, which has an identity strongly tied to its home in the Pacific Northwest and has become widely regarded as a leader in the niche world of US-made bikepacking gear. What started as a two-person basement workshop in 2008 has scaled up to include around 10 employees and a network of factory partners around Seattle. The transition to Indonesian manufacturing will begin in March of this year and will run alongside Swift’s in-house sewing, which will focus on their custom bag program.
Given Swift Industries’ longtime commitment to transparency and ardent support of various environmental and social justice causes, we can trust them to have chosen a manufacturing facility that will be building their bags in an ethically responsible manner, though the move toward overseas production undoubtedly means relatively lower wages for the workers sewing their bags abroad. And it also means a larger environmental footprint associated with Swift products—at least for buyers in the United States—though the brand is distributed in several Asian countries, and stock bags will presumably now have a shorter journey to those outlets. Based on the language in Swift’s letter (read the full text here for more perspective), they’re anticipating that this shift will cause some consternation among their base of fans who support them expressly because their products are inspired by and made in the Pacific Northwest—an ethos they’ve built the brand on since the beginning. We expect the excellent quality of construction to remain unchanged, and Swift says the origins of all products will be stated in their online shop going forward.
Setting these considerations aside for a moment, we think it’s worth pausing to reflect on the brand’s trajectory from a cottage industry maker in a Seattle basement to one with a global network of stockists and internationally outsourced production, and we can’t help but wonder what it means for the future of our small corner of the cycling world. We’re fans of Swift products, several of which we’ve reviewed here on the site, and we wish them the best in this new chapter. We’ll be following along for updates and insights on their blog at BuiltBySwift.com.
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