Lightweight, durable and ridiculously versatile, IKEA’s 99-cent reusable shopping bag is associated with a wide range of activities and events, both prosaic and transformative:
Trips to the beach.
Goodwill donation hauls.
Sending the kids off to college.
Excursions to buy a new shower curtain that nearly ended in divorce.
A blue-hued polypropylene workhorse boasting logo-emblazoned straps and a 19-gallon carrying capacity, the FRAKTA bag has been with us through life’s many changes. Yet the super-utilitarian bag itself remains unchanged.
But not for much longer.
Last week at the third annual Democratic Design Day media hootenanny held at IKEA HQ in Älmhult, Sweden, the home goods behemoth revealed FRAKTA has been treated to a dramatic facelift courtesy of Rolf and Mette Hay, the husband-wife team behind the eponymous Danish design brand.
The dimensions and flat-folding functionality of the new FRAKTA are very much the same as the waterproof tote of old, which, along the frozen meatballs and flat-pack bookcases, stands as one of IKEA’s most emblematic offerings.
But as for the colors ...
Hardcore IKEA-ites might be in for a shock as Hay has done away with the bag’s brand-adherent tarpaulin blue for a handsome forest green and white check pattern with complementary — and not to mention, logo-free — green straps.
Appearing on stage at Democratic Design Day, Mette Hay spoke of the bag’s ubiquitous nature and why a revamped FRAKTA is included in Hay’s upcoming collection for IKEA, a collaboration that will also include seating, lighting and more.
“I was driving from the airport to our house on a Sunday evening and saw so many people on the street with that blue bag. This bag is an icon of IKEA,” explains Mette.
She adds: “We worked with colors that will be long-lasting and I hope people will find them interesting.”
IKEA's collaboration with Hay, interestingly colored shopping bag included, will appear in stores in 2017.
Marcus Engman, designer manager of IKEA, notes that the shopping bag overhaul — and Hay collaboration as a whole — is part of the retailer’s larger push to switch things up while remaining true to its Scandinavian roots: “When we see the world is changing, how people live is changing, how people use products is changing, we have a duty to reinvent our basics. Still with a typical IKEA design sensibility, so that you can see that it is us from the beginning, so you can see that it relates to our Scandinavian heritage, which is part of being IKEA".
Designed by Knut and Marianne Hagberg (a brother-sister, not husband-wife duo) and first introduced in 1996, the original FRAKTA isn’t just one of IKEA’s more instantly recognizable products — it’s also one of the most game-changing, a proud progenitor in the reusable shopping bag movement.
In October 2008, IKEA, always the trailblazer in the realm of corporate sustainability, bid adjö with single-use shopping bags at its U.S. outposts after a year-and-half-long stint of charging customers a nickel for them with all proceeds going to the nonprofit American Forests. The so-called “Bag the Plastic Bag” initiative, one of the first and most aggressive plastic bag phase-out campaigns launched by a retailer with a major stateside presence, was a success and ushered in the era of no plastic bags at IKEA.
Of course, IKEA's shift from charging for plastic bags to doing away with them altogether was a somewhat jarring one for customers back in the late oughts. Keep in mind that less than a decade ago, throwaway plastic shopping bags still flowed freely and city- and state-wide bans on the wasteful landfill-cloggers were relatively unheard of in North America.
But IKEA shoppers got used to it. And in time, many embraced the simple yet rugged reusable option — an option with a myriad uses beyond hauling loot home from the do-gooding home furnishings emporium.
And just like in 2008 when FRAKTA transitioned into the role of IKEA’s sole shopping bag option, the new FRAKTA will no doubt receive a warm welcome. (Judging from the frenzied reaction of Democratic Design Day attendees, the company has a runaway hit on their hands.) While the Hay-designed carry-all likely won’t permanently or completely replace IKEA's iconic big blue tote but be sold alongside it for a limited run, get ready for an invasion of oversized green-and-white reusable shopping bags in 2017.
Inset photo: Inter IKEA Systems