She’s been designing for nearly a decade, but with her clean-lined leather backpacks—dubbed “Wolfepacks”—cropping up around town and a recent nod from InStyle, 2015 is shaping up to be Gina DeWolfe’s year.
The Massachusetts native, who grew up on a farm in Boylston, was in high school when she made her first bag, a fabric tote. She was carrying it on a shopping trip in Boston when Bodega owner Oliver Mak spotted it; within two weeks, she had a collection in the store—before she even had a driver’s license. The bags were a hit, and DeWolfe relished the creative process, a heady mix of problem-solving and artistry. Two years later, she enrolled at Newbury Street’s School of Fashion Design, expanding her repertoire to clothing.
But after contracting Lyme disease in 2011, DeWolfe found herself bedridden—and desperate for an outlet. When life gave her Lyme, DeWolfe made bags. “There were lots of dark days,” she recalls. “I’m a creative person by nature and needed something to keep myself busy.” Hand-sewing filled the time, and soon DeWolfe began experimenting with leather, turning to tools she had inherited from her grandfather, a leathersmith. She found that leather has a malleability that most fabric lacks, much like a hunk of clay. Each piece also has a history, one that DeWolfe appreciates. “It’s organic, it comes from a living being, and I try to honor that and respect where the hide came from.”
DeWolfe made an early prototype for herself and spent the better part of a year reworking that design. “It takes a lot of effort to make something so effortless,” she admits. Karmaloop bought her first large order, which she tackled on her own, from admin to production. Today, the 20-something designer still makes each Wolfepack by hand, and her deWolfe line (which includes wallets, belts and other bags) has grown almost entirely through word of mouth. Having mentors like Lana Barakat, owner of December Thieves and an early supporter, hasn’t hurt. She picked up the line last winter. And this spring, the Wolfepack made it to the finals in InStyle’s reader-voted Independent Handbag Designer Awards, placing in the “Handmade” category alongside four other international designers.
When she’s not working in her studio, you can find DeWolfe in front of a classroom at Bay State College, where she teaches everything from Tailoring and French Draping to Pattern Making and the History of Couture. But she’s always tinkering. Keep an eye on ginadewolfe.com for a new iteration of the Wolfepack, which will be bigger, slightly more rugged, made of a thicker leather and decidedly unisex. “A lot of guys have bought the original Wolfepack, while women might want a larger one, too,” DeWolfe explains. “I want the brand to be androgynous.”
“Two envelope wallets from my collection—one for business cards, one for cash. My favorite Ray-Bans, a Moleskin planner, a chunk of amethyst for positive energy (I also keep one on my work bench) and a little bottle of patchouli oil.”