ABOUT OUR VALUES AND OPERATING PRINCIPLES
How we think, work, and the principles by which we operate
YKRA is a family owned and operated company based in Budapest, Hungary. Our brand was founded with the aim of making great products from natural materials using traditional manufacturing methods.
The key to our success is quality, simple design, attention to detail, and conscious curation of our brand. YKRA customers choose our products, not only for the aesthetics, or the materials, but also for the values we stand for. From the materials we use to how and where we manufacture our products, our working conditions and the life cycle of our products, we take a holistic approach to our business, each decision carefully made in accordance with our values.
Our goal today is to create a lasting brand that will be around 50 or 100 years from now. We therefore prioritise long term goals over immediate material gains. As a friend once remarked: “Had YKRA concentrated on making a profit, it would never have been successful”
It is in this spirit that we conduct our business: values over profits and not the other way around.
WHAT DOES SUSTAINABILITY MEAN FOR US?
Sustainability is a very popular marketing term these days, and there is no shortage of companies greenwashing their brands with terms like recycled plastic and “vegan” leather.
It can feel good to purchase something that communicates to you that you are doing something good for Mother Earth. But often this is no more than a hypocritical marketing gimmick, after all how could you solve a crisis based on overconsumption by consuming?
We feel really strongly about the future of our planet, and our impact on the environment and therefore strive to cause the least harm as possible. But we refrain from greenwashing our operations with terms like sustainability.
There is no such a thing as sustainable production, no human activity is ever sustainable. The act of manufacturing causes harm to the environment. We can accept that and try to minimise it, but we will never completely eliminate it, nor can we ignore it any longer. It’s time to take responsibility for our actions.
We respect our customers, and feel that it is our responsibility to them to be transparent and honest about our production, and work towards minimising our impact on a daily basis. Find out more about what we do, and why we do it that way, below:
WHAT KIND OF MATERIALS DO WE USE?
Mass produced accessories made from cheap plastics only look good when they are new, but they age badly and once they are old, dirty or broken, they will end up in a landfill. This inspired us to use only the best quality natural materials, that are durable, age well, acquire a certain patina, can be repaired, and which will decompose at the end of their life cycle. Using a well made product for a long time reduces the need for 2-3 lesser products, and is ultimately the most conscious choice we can make.
Almost all of the materials we use are natural, the few which are not can be recycled. We aim for our products to become 100% plastic free in the near future.
WHERE DO OUR MATERIALS COME FROM?
Cotton Canvas: One of our most important materials is our iconic canvas made from 100% cotton. This thick “Duck” canvas is woven for us in the Czech Republic from cotton sourced world wide, depending on global cotton pricing. The cotton yarn used for the weaving of our canvases is OEKO-TEX® 100 STANDARD certified.
It is dyed using ecologically friendly dies before it arrives in Hungary. We use the undied loomstate canvas for our prints. For the printing process we use water based paints that are fixed into the fibers of the fabric, ensuring unparalleled durability of our prints.
The production of cotton is anything but sustainable, with extensive use of pesticides, fertilizers, and huge water needs. However the touch and feel of cotton is superior to all alternatives, this is why we use it for our products. We have not yet found a suitable replacement for it, while maintaining our standard of quality.
In the future we would like to transition to an alternative material and we are considering using Cotton-hemp hybrids. The production of hemp canvas is much more eco-friendly than cotton canvas, as hemp requires no pesticides, no fertilizers, and 100 times less water than cotton. We are currently experimenting with these materials, to determine if a switch is possible.
Wool Felt: We use wool felt on the shoulder straps of the leather straps of the MATRA MINI backpack, as well as lining in our LAPTOP CASE. The felt we use is created for us Hungary’s only felt factory in Kőszeg, in operation since 1896. The wool is sheared locally, washed and pressed to create the 100% wool felt we use in our products.
Metal Parts: Our metal buckles and rivets are made from copper, and have a nickel finish. They are mostly manufactured for us in Hungary. An exception to this are our zippers and buttons, where we have opted to use the industry leader YKK product to ensure premium quality.
Leather: We use vegetable tanned cowhide for our products, a natural by-product of the meat industry sourced from reliable and transparent sources. Our leather is made in Tuscany in Italy, and cut here in Hungary.
WHY DO WE USE LEATHER?
From time to time, we get the question if we would consider using vegan “leather” instead of real leather.
The short answer is no. Vegan “leather” is made from plastic. If it is not ok to use plastics for shopping bags, why would we consider it for our high quality products? Vegan “leather” has a short lifespan, and will end up as unrecyclable plastic in the landfill. Leather properly cared for can last for decades! We know of no synthetic alternatives that come even close to that.
Nevertheless we are completely against, and opposed to all forms of cruelty to animals! We are also not naive: the matter of fact is that as long as people eat hamburgers and steaks, leather will be available as a by-product of the food and meat industry.
If these animals had to die for their meat, we feel it is morally more respectable to the environment to use their leather than to dispose of it as waste. This is a moral question, and you might not agree with us. That’s ok, we don’t want to convince you. But we would like you to understand the reasoning behind our choice, so you can become a more educated consumer and make the best choice for you, in accordance with your own values.
Strings, ropes, webbing etc.: Our webbing, strings, and cords are made from cotton here in Hungary. Our colorful ropes are an exception: they are also made in Hungary, but from polypropylene a completely recyclable plastic. At the end of its life cycle you can recycle it just like PET bottles. We are experimenting with natural alternatives to this, but have not yet found a working solution that would give us the same quality as PP rope.
In our MINI DUFFLE bags, and our BEACH BAG, we use a layer of Polyester PVC Tarpaulin. This material has a potential lifespan of 100 years, and can be recycled. We are currently looking into replacing it with natural alternatives, like coconut fiber sheets.
WHERE ARE OUR PRODUCTS MANUFACTURED?
From the founding of our brand, it’s always been really important for us to keep production here in Hungary to support local manufacturing and labor. We work with small manufacturers and factories that provide good working conditions and good salaries for their employees. Through our work we directly and indirectly contribute to the livelihoods of hundreds of people, many of them low skilled workers living in underdeveloped parts of Hungary with limited opportunities, who are dependent on our success. We are proud of the fact that we have been working with rehabilitated workers through some of our partners for more than 8 years.
We are often approached by factories in the far east, offering cheaper production prices. Once again, as in so many things we choose our values over profits. We’d rather make less money, doing the right thing, than to be rich from exploiting underpaid workers, working in poor conditions. Not to mention the environmental impact of shipping from one side of the world to the other! This is not who we are, or what we believe in. Naturally, local production in Europe is more expensive, and this is reflected in the pricing of our products.
WORKING AT YKRA
Through our work we directly and indirectly contribute to the livelihoods of hundreds of people, many of them low skilled workers living in underdeveloped parts of Hungary with limited opportunities, who are dependent on our success. We are proud of the fact that we have been working with rehabilitated workers through some of our partners for more than 8 years.
We only work with partners who provide good working conditions and proper wages to their employees. We also pay special attention to our own working conditions. We believe that great work is done in places where people enjoy themselves. We don’t measure work by how many hours are spent sitting at a desk, and accommodate the special needs of our coworkers. We strive to create a friendly and familial environment where we are happy to come to work every day.
Fun fact: YKRA is 80% female.
Our approach to sustainability is based on the belief that we should cause the least amount of harm to the environment with our actions. The materials we use, should one day be able to break down without a trace, without contaminating our rivers, or ending up undigested in the stomachs of marine wildlife.
But before they break down, our materials have to be durable enough, so our products last for a long time. Taking good care of your backpacks and accessories ensures that they will last for a long time. Using wax to impregnate your backpack will protect it from rain, but to a certain degree from dirt as well. Regular maintenance of the leather parts will ensure that it will acquire a beautiful patina over time. Unlike synthetic materials, natural materials age well, and even a worn out and faded YKRA bag can look good, and tell a story of all your adventures.
A big part of our design process is creating objects that are as simple as they can be, while being perfectly functional, and repairable. Objects age with use and they will break with time. But if we can repair them and extend their lifespan, then that will spare us from replacing it with a new one. We see backpacks that have been in use for more than 8-9 years, and after minor repairs, we can extend their lifespan for another 5-6 years, maybe even longer. In the age of consumption, using an object for 10-15 years, and repairing it when needed is almost an act of rebellion. Simple design, and traditional manufacturing help to make repair easy and accessible. Most of our backpacks can be repaired by a seamstress or a shoemaker.
Our lifelong guarantee on all of our products means that we will always fix a product that we have created if it is faulty or has any kind of production defect. But the truth is we rarely have to. The secret behind this is that before releasing a new product we test it thoroughly ourselves, then with friends, and finally with our online customers, before selling it on a wider scale to our retail partners. This practice has helped us catch production issues before they affect a lot of our customers. And with any product you are purchasing from YKRA, you can rest assured that we have tried, and tested it ourselves.