Friday, February 08, 2008

Ten Years in the Game....

Ten years. One decade. That's certainly a long time! Well, we're awfully proud to be able to say that R.E.load is now ten years old! When we made our first bags, we weren't even really planning on starting a company. Slowly but surely, as we got more and more requests to make bags for our fellow Philly messengers, we realized that we might actually be at the beginning of something real. The above picture was taken from our first actual photo shoot, which took place in the winter of 1999. At that point, believe it or not, we were just starting to get into the graphics element of customization.

Once we figured out what we wanted to do as far as the bags, there were two lingering questions. What do we call the company? And what should our logo be? The answer to the first question came through a series of conversations between Ellie, myself, and a number of friends. We wanted a name that was also descriptive of the function of the bags themselves. What do we use them for? What do we do all day with them? At the time we were both of consciousness led from making deliveries to dropping/picking up to....LOAD And RELOAD!!! And what a coincidence that the first two letter in "reload" are the first initials of the two founders: Roland and Ellie. Anyway, as far as the second concern - the logo - our friend and dispatcher (Marcus Tenaglia) came up with the above design, which was silkscreened onto all of our bags for a while. If you still have one of these, hang on to it...the only existing bags that are older than these are the ones we did with hand-screened pieces of liner scraps sewn onto the flaps.

We've moved around quite a bit in our lifetime...all in all, R.E.Load has existed in eleven different locations between Philadelphia, Washington state, and San Francisco. Kinda crazy. Anyway, this is where it all started....above is the little spare room in 19XX Green st. where our first bags were made. The patterns were made from cardboard cut out of the sides of bike boxes. We'd buy a couple of yards of materials at a time, based on our current orders. What you see in that picture represents the entirety of R.E.Load's raw goods at the time.

This was our first flyer...we only made one size, which was pretty close to our current Courier model. And we boasted amazing custom options like color choices for the bases and flaps :)

We spent our first couple of years sourcing materials and expanding on our basic bag design. Slowly we also began to get into the more creative side of the bags, working on applique and alternative materials. Our big break came in 2000, when the CMWC - which was slated to be held in Boston, but had to be re-worked due to conflict with the municipality (the short story is basically the city of Boston was anti-messenger) - was moved to Philly. The Boston organizers came down with only a few months left, and together with the Philadelphia Bicycle Messenger Association (which we also had a hand in creating along with several other individuals, most notably Wendy Fallin, who was the main component) we threw the biggest messenger event of the year. A slew of couriers from all over the globe flocked to our city and bought bags, which made their way back across the globe and without a doubt sparked interest in R.E.Load that otherwise would have taken years to develop had things gone any other way.

This was our first website. As was (and for the most part, still is) the case with our design and promotion, we have been lucky to have friends and family with loads of talent and a profound desire to help us out. T-shirts, business cards, catalogs, and all kinds of promotions have been conducted by the people that believe in us. This site was created by my sister.

Our second website has been temporarily placed back up on the internet just so you can see where we were in 1999. Check it out here.

Needless to say, we've gone through countless changes in the handful of years that followed. Ellie moved back out to her native west coast, yet we remained committed to maintaining R.E.Load as a unified, bi-coastal operation. We continued to press forward and acquired newer and stronger materials whenever possible. We worked and worked on our applique skills until we could truly call ourselves masters, and continue to refine our techniques...something that has been extremely critical, since we basically, unwittingly, have set a standard that now essentially requires any new messenger bag company to offer similar level of customization to ours. So, in order to remain ahead of the curve, we have to keep building on our years of extra experience.

If you took a second to check out the old website, you might have noticed that there's one glaring difference between our current bags and our originals. Back in 1998, when we started all of this, we made our bags with heavy duty canvas exteriors. A lot of this was in tribute to Globe Canvas and their original DeMartini messenger bags. Canvas remained our material of choice until about 2001, when when for a number of reasons, we decided to switch to cordura. Even at that early time in our company, we were used to making upgrades when we found better materials and hardware. But this wasn't so much of an upgrade as a “switch”. Canvas was soft and capable of breaking in in a way that no synthetic ever could. Cordura was lighter (especially in the rain!), much better against abrasion, and came in exponentially more colors. In the end, we chose cordura, but canvas will always and forever have a place in our hearts.

So when we started talking about making a special run of bags for our tenth anniversary, it was pretty much a no-brainer that the best way to honor our heritage would be to reintroduce a limited line of canvas bags. While we were at it, we decided to bring back another small detail that has been sorely missed by many: our original 2.5” logo. In a special silver color way, no less! Along with orange stitching – which used to be the only color choice; we wanted to use contrast stitching at all times to showcase the fact that we weren't afraid let people see how well the bags were stitched – double outside pockets, a messenger pad, and a ballistic base, the end result is a timeless classic that mixes the best of the old with the best of the new. In other words, the perfect symbol of ten years of R.E.Load.

We sincerely appreciate all of the people who have made our amazing journey possible, and hope that these special bags will still be as classic as ever when year number twenty rolls around. Our tenth anniversary limited run will be available in March, and will consist of Small Civilian, Civilian, and Deluxe models with all-black exteriors and model-specific liner colors. For more information, please visit our website.


reload said...

Man, Ro, I can't believe it, 10 years! Remember when I was 18? Ha-ha.

ro said...

um.....i remember when you were SIXTEEN :) I am actually gonna give lena a call and see if she'll finally pony up that old video footage

Moko said...

Ellie, Ro and the Reload Krew, Congrats on ten years of making the best mess bags on the planet. Still fly'n my bag from Race St, the Special 10th Anni Deluxe bag just arrived today and I'm luv'n it already...can't wait to break it in.. :D

~ Mahalo Reload !!