The Perfect Pack’s Jon recently had a long distance conversation with Boris Fridman, owner and lead designer of Sarma Custom Made, based in Haifa, Israel. He has had a long-term involvement with both the military and civilian pack market there, and recently expanded Sarma’s capabilities with a new, full-spectrum workshop. Although his enterprise is currently based on orders through a Facebook page, it remains focused on handmade gear built with customer choice in mind.
Jon: How did you begin making packs?
Boris: There was a time (1998-2001) when I was engaged in the manufacture of army packs and vests. Then I wanted to sew a bag for myself – it started with this. Now I am designing army equipment only as part of the Source Tactical Gear team. My brand, “Sarma Custom Made”, specializes mainly in EDC equipment and is not affiliated with the army.
Jon: You still work for Source, and run Sarma as a separate effort?
Boris: I have been working with Source for more than 12 years, but these are mostly military projects. Sarma Custom is a different direction and solely my design and organization.
Jon: Why did you decide to make them under your own company name?
Boris: I think that the design and manufacture of products under its own brand is the right way.
Jon: Do you have a workshop?
Boris: Yes, of course. I started from the corner in the apartment, then a separate room in the apartment, then parts of the apartment, etc. Now I rent a working area of about 60 square meters in the industrial zone. My studio is located in Tirat Carmel, just south of Haifa.
Jon: What is your design philosophy?
Boris: I never thought about a philosophy. Just trying to make comfortable and durable bags or backpacks.
Jon: How many designs have you made?
Boris: Now I have three basic designs of backpacks (plus their variations), five basic designs of bags, and several different pouches. But the main product is the universal bag Torba MINI.
Jon: Israel has provided some very interesting packs and fighting gear to the soldier. Is there a design bureau that makes the requirements?
Boris: Of course, there is a structure that defines the requirements for products for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). But design is done by private firms, such as Marom Dolphin or Source, for example.
Jon: Source is a big part of the tactical equipment market. Has the military always purchased gear from commercial vendors?
Boris: In Israel, as well as in the USA (if I am not mistaken), only a local manufacturer of equipment has the right to provide products to the army (of course, at the level of official orders). Source is the main supplier of hydration systems to the army. In addition, it constantly participates in tenders of the IDF.
Jon: What do your customers use the Torba MINI for? Is it mostly EDC, or other interests like photography or hiking?
Boris: Usually, the bag is used as an urban EDC bag. It was designed for this role. However, it can be used for short trips and for hiking, and as a medical pouch. I do not ask buyers to write me how they use the bag, although it is a good idea and I will do a survey among the owners of Torba MINI. Thank you for idea!
Jon: Are you going to keep making only your basic designs, or do you plan to create more products for Sarma?
Boris: Of course, I’m not going to stop. There will be new models, and improvement of existing designs. Now it takes me a lot of time to work with Source Tactical Gear, but I plan to improve the organization of my activities and more to design my models.
Jon: What is the pack/bag market like in Israel? You seem to have an edge when making custom designs that are local made. Do you compete with U.S. manufactured bags that are sold in local shops?
Boris: Honestly, I never focused on the local market of Israel. I decided that I would not waste time promoting and fighting in the local market. In Israel I have a certain circle of clients who know my products and this is quite enough.
Jon: What do your customers think are important, in terms of durability or light weight? Or do they focus on price?
Boris: I think for my customers (as for me too) the durability of the product is more important than light weight. As for the price, I can say that I do not remember when the customer was dissatisfied with the price.