Messenger bag, 'Seedy Three', Dupont Cordura Plus nylon/ plastic, designed and made by Crumpler, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 1995
This is one of a collection of bags and promotional material relating to Crumpler, an Australian company set up to design, make, market and wholesale bags specifically for bicycle couriers. The company later produced a range of bags and accessories for other users; it became very successful due to its distinctive designs and the excellent durability of its products.
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 bags specifically suited to the bicycle courier's task. They became so popular among bicycle couriers that Roper, Miller and Crumpler decided to set up a business to make and sell them.
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, which fulfilled the need for a large, strong, lightweight and easily accessible bag to carry 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 to enthusiasts; they also developed streetwear and accessories for the business market. The collection includes Crumpler's best selling 'Seedy Three' bag, used by bicycle couriers and bicycle enthusiasts and sold through streetwear shops, plus a range of colourful smaller bags, including the 'Weenie' and 'Monster Truck', aimed at the streetwear market. More recent products like the laptop bag Wack-O-Phone illustrate the company's successful move into the business sector.
The collection also contains a range of advertising material documenting the company's innovative approach to promoting its products. 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 it came up with a range of droll and witty marketing strategies keyed into the bicycle, rave, student and streetwear markets. Its catalogues reflect the influence of street magazines with personalised stories, quirky graphics and irreverent text.
Each Crumpler bag style comes with a distinct personality and features reflecting the age and interests of its intended market. For example The Seedy Three comes with the following quirky description. 'This plain (but don't you try calling it that), mid-size bag was the first ever designed by Crumpler. And it will let you know it. It's been known after a few too many drinks to take other Crumpler bags on long trips through dark forests and begin chanting the words "Beware, my seed, beware!" Left on the floor at night, Seedy Three can be heard reciting lines from John Malkovich films and giggling under its breath.' (Extract from Crumpler Catalogue One.)
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 of the logo and spray paint were used to imprint the logo on footpaths in inner city shopping areas, building site hoardings, back lane walls, bike tracks and skate bowls. Crumpler advertised in street magazines and free music magazines, where its advertising style fitted comfortably. It also targeted the student market by sponsoring university and college events, parties and competitions, and advertising in relevant magazines. The logo was included in the Melbourne Fringe Festival guide in the form of a flicky book. 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 light-hearted wit, 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. One memorable slogan is: 'Crumpler bags are for acts of international peace making and piss taking.'
Glynis Jones, Curator, 2001
Crumpler's first orange canvas messenger bag was gradually refined into its best selling 'Seedy Three' style bag.
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. The following is a quote from Stuart Crumpler, written to the acquiring curator of 30 August 1999.
'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's first messenger bags attracted attention out on the street, and people started to call into Minuteman Couriers to ask where they could buy them. Recognising the bags' potential, David Roper, Stuart Crumpler and William Miller decided in late 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 shopfront to show their bags and some of Stuart Crumpler's sculpture and furniture.
In the late 1990s Stuart Crumpler decided to move out of the city to Ballarat, so Crumpler's manufacturing moved out there. By 2001 the company had six staff working in the factory, but also outsourced some of the production to specialists in cutting and construction. Manufacture later moved to Vietnam.
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 its products and proudly advertises the products' durability. The bags are made of Dupont Cordura Plus, an industrial strength nylon fabric which is also quick drying and lightweight. The straps are made of industrial seat belt webbing, and the bags fasten with unbreakable size 10 zips.
This bag was made in 1995.