Computer bag, 'Wack-O-Phone', Dupont Cordura Plus nylon / plastic, designed and made by Crumpler, Australia, 2001
Part of a collection of bags and promotional material relating to Crumpler, an Australian company designing, making, marketing and wholesaling a distinctive range of bags and accessories. David Roper and William Miller originally ran their own bicycle messenger business 'Minuteman Messengers' in Melbourne. In the early 1990s Stuart Crumpler joined them as a bicycle courier and started designing a bag specifically suited to the bicycle courier's task. It became so successful among bicycle couriers that Roper, Miller and Crumpler decided to set up a business designing and manufacturing bags
This collection documents the product development and marketing of the Crumpler bag range from 1993 to 2000. It includes Crumpler's first canvas messenger bag, developed specifically for bicycle couriers, fulfilling their need for a large, strong, lightweight bag to carry and access quickly packages and letters. Through skilful design and innovative marketing the Crumpler team went on to develop a range of bags aimed at a diverse market, from bicycle couriers and enthusiasts to streetwear, to accessories for the business market. The collection includes Crumpler's best selling 'Seedy Three' bag, used by bicycle couriers, bicycle enthusiasts and sold through streetwear shops. From this came a range of colourful smaller style bags including the 'Weenie' and 'Monster Truck' aimed at the streetwear market. More recent products like the laptop bag illustrate their successful move into bags for the business sector.
The collection also contains a range of advertising material documenting the company's innovative approach to promoting their product: At first it was the messenger bags distinctive and colourful image that sold them on the street but when the company realised the limits of this market they came up with a range of droll and witty marketing strategies keyed into the bicycle, rave, student and streetwear markets. Their catalogues reflect the influence of street magazines with their personalised stories, quirky graphics and irreverent text. Each Crumpler bag style comes with a distict personality and features reflecting the age and interests of its market. For example the 'Wack-O-Phone', 'This bag has nothing to do with phones. In fact it is for computers. But let's not get distracted. Wack-O-Phone means "let your crack hang out". The bag allows you the same freedom for carrying your notebook. It is a large bag with every component you need for trouser dropping frenzies. Features: Heavy duty padding; multiple internal zip pockets; padded shoulder strap; escape hole for audio or communication devices; quick release buckles and laptop stabiliser' Crumpler catalogue.
This droll humour extends to the naming of each bag style including the phallic shaped camera bag 'Cucumberumba', the large size and bold colours of the 'Seedy Three', the very small 'Monster Truck' bag and the large computer bag, 'Very Busy Man'.
Early promotional campaigns included a street campaign using only the Crumpler logo to create a vibe of enquiry around the city. A stencil was made of the logo and sprayed on footpaths in inner city shopping areas, building site hoardings, back lane walls, bike tracks and skate bowls. They advertised in street magazines and free music magazines, their advertising style sitting comfortably in street magazines. Crumpler also targeted the student market, (because of their need to carry around study materials) by sponsoring university and college events, parties and competitions and advertising in their magazines. For the Melbourne Fringe Festival they included their logo in the form of a flicky book in the guide. In more traditional media, the Crumpler team made a 60 second cinema advertisement which ran in art house cinemas (Nova and Kino in Melbourne).
Behind the witty repartee Crumpler's advertising also takes issue with many aspects of contemporary design including its built in obsolescence, replace not repair values, abuse of people and animals in manufacture, exclusivity of products and lack of humour. i.e. 'Crumpler bags are for acts of international peace making and piss taking.'
This bag was designed and made 2001.
In 1999-2000 the Crumpler team expanded their market with a small range of camera, audio, video and laptop bags.
'We wanted to diversify a little but continue producing bags that had a purpose & function - there were no decent looking laptop or camera bags around so we saw a bit of a possibility to make something nice & functional that wasn't too square, black & boring - something that didn't scream out "Look thief - I have $5000 in me"' Dave Roper correspondence with curator 20 September 2001.
William Miller and David Roper established a bicycle messenger business called Minuteman Messengers in 1991 and were soon joined by Stuart Crumpler who worked as a bicycle courier. They needed bags for their riders that were durable and easy to access and Stuart (a sculptor and furniture maker) started designing and making the first styles out of canvas.
'Since they grew out of necessity, invention's dear old Mummy, the early bags had everything the courier needed, but nothing they didn't. Looks were not much of a concern, and they would not want to be since the canvas used got covered in road crud..Features? Not many, the early bags were a very simple pattern, a very simple bag. No zips to bugger up, just a few pockets and one main compartment.
A serious design idea right from the start was strength and practicality, it's something we still stick to and always will. We use the strongest materials possible, bordering on overkill. The webbing used for the shoulder straps is designed for use in crane cargo slings, capable of lifting the weight of a car. The buckles used are as big and strong as possible. Zips are the largest size we can get hold of, because there's nothing more annoying than the zip on your shitty little backpack stuffing up. Couriers are going to bust something if anyone will, they open and close their bags at least 100 times every day, and they need to last for years. We learnt from our mistakes, gradually improving the gear thanks to feedback from couriers. Now we very rarely see a bag come back for repairs.
Now though, we sell more bags through streetwear shops than to cyclists and of course couriers. There are only so many couriers in the world. Much more so than when we started out, we have aesthetic concerns when designing bags. Strength and practicality are more important than ever though. We now provide bags to all sorts of customers, kids, photographers, skaters, business people..
Colour wise, bright primary colours have always been best. Black will always be popular, but most people seem to like to have something a bit different. We try to never give in to faddy colours, retailers say things like "brown is gonna be huge this winter, we want brown bags". We made this mistake once, but never again.
We prefer to just do our own thing and if something is looking too popular, we avoid it where possible.' Stuart Crumpler - correspondence with curator 30 August 1999.
Stuart Crumpler's first messenger bags attracted attention on the street and people started to call into Minuteman Couriers enquiring where they could get one. Recognising the bags potential David Roper, Stuart Crumpler and William Miller decided in 1993 to set up a business and in 1995 registered Crumpler. William and David provided the start up finance and worked on the marketing while Stuart ran the design and production.
Their messenger business was in Flinders Lane so they leased a second floor warehouse at 125 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, the original rag trade area in Melbourne. They later moved to Brunswick Street where they also had a shop front to show their bags and some of Stuart Crumpler's sculpture and furniture.
In the late 1990's Stuart Crumpler decided to move out of the city to Ballarat so the manufacturing was also moved out there. They now have six staff working in the factory (mostly friends) but also outsource some of the production to specialists in cutting and construction.
Durability and efficiency are core issues in the design of Crumpler bags; they are strong, waterproof and made to last. Crumpler offers a guarantee to repair their products and proudly advertise the products durability. The bags are made out of Dupont Cordura Plus an industrial strength nylon fabric which is also quick drying and lightweight. The straps are made out of industrial seat belt webbing and the bags fasten with unbreakable size 10 zips.
The bags donated to the Museum are unused. The advertising material was put together by David Roper.
The larger messenger bags are used by bicycle couriers and as travelling bags. The smaller bags are sold through streetwear shops and bicycle shops. The laptop computer case is used by a wide variety of business people and students.
Crumpler catalogue features the following text for the 'Wack-O-Phone' bag:
'Wack-O-Phone The medium one) This bag has nothing to do with phones. In fact it is for computers. But let's not get distracted. WACK-O-PHONE is a term, in historical and sociological circles, for the practice of "mooning". Lt's make that clear: WACK-O-PHONE means "let your crack hang out". The bag allows you the same freedom for carrying your notebook. It is a large bag with every component you need for trouser dropping frenzies. Features: Heavy duty padding; multiple internal zip pockets;padded shoulder strap;escape hole for audio or communication devices;quick release buckles and laptop stabiliser'