Uncluttered white spaces amongst many things, loves traveling. The thought of it, the constant daydreaming of a new place and adventure, the experience and excitement of a new place. More importantly  are the relationships that are formed. The people you meet along the way, those who are headed in the same direction as you, or the ones that live in the towns and cities you visit.

Social enterprise ETHNOTEK who specialize in high quality, culturally sustainable backpacks and messenger bags,  have taken this relationship to a new level.  Through ETHNOTEK  Jake Orak and Josh Linde have created an outlet for the dwindling number of age-old  artisans they have met along the way on their travels.

After spending almost seven years in California, Vietnam and Switzerland designing various types of bags, Orak returned to his home town of Minnesota to turn a vision he had in Ho Chi Minh City into a reality. He dreamed of using  locally, hand-made materials from all over the world to promote cultural appreciation and awareness.

Upon returning home, ETHNOTEK was born. Using a unique form of sourcing, ‘direct trade’, Orak or a member of his team travel directly to the source of the materials that are used in their products. It is here countless hours are spent with the friends and family of the artisans, forming a special relationship. A work order for the materials is created on the spot.

“We always pay the asking rate of the artist and ask them to produce only what they can,” Orak asserts.

This is why ETHNOTEK is growing at a slowly but surely rate, a decision made purposely by Orak.

“These aren’t big factories. Most of the time these artisans do all the work from their home.”

The artisans he hires can’t quickly produce the large amount of fabric that large corporations demand. Big retailers are starting to notice the effort and craftsmanship that go into these unique bags. REI is working with ETHNOTEK to start a soft launch this June. 

Perhaps it is summed up best by the guys themselves:

Social enterprise ETHNOTEK, was founded by Minnesotans Jake Orak and Josh Linde as a way to give back to the hidden designers of the world. Designers not found in a swanky luxury studio or urban showroom, but in the homes and villages of the 3rd world.

Jake & Josh spent half a year with the families and weavers who make the colorful textiles that are built into every bag. Since July 2011, artisans on 5 continents have been working steady on ETHNOTEK fabric.

Orak and Linde’s main goal is to keep it that way while increasing the amount of jobs in areas where it’s needed most. And of course, to always offer fresh and functional bags that push the boundaries of how we carry our precious cargo.