July 15, 2016
Best friends Jen and Lisa of Rewilder have been impressing us season after season with their incredibly crafted bags and their booth displays. Using 100% reclaimed materials, each bag and accessory tells a unique story and stands the test of time.
Where did your business name come from? Is there an interesting story behind it?
Our name, Rewilder, is inspired by the grey wolves of Yellowstone National Park, reintroduced into the ecosystem in 1995 after being killed off 70 years earlier. This process is called rewilding. The results were dramatic, starting a cascade of growth and change that brought back many animals, regenerated plant life, and stabilized the river.
Have you always been passionate about design?
Yes! For as long as we can remember.
Why did you start working in this particular craft?
After discovering our core filter cloth material, we came together from various backgrounds (handbag design and achitecture) inspired by the challenge to work with salvaged materials. Every bag is a combination of high design, handcraft, and the utmost respect for the environment; a perfect balance of things we feel are important for the future.
The filter cloth material used initially in beer making has an incredibly unique look and feel, with a patina from its first life in manufacturing. Because it is difficult to describe in writing, we invite everyone to see and feel it for themselves!
What do you think sets your designs apart from others?
The element of surprise. The bags we make are modern, utilitarian, and built to last. Everyone is surprised to find out that ALL the materials we use had a first life somewhere else.
Have you had any major failures? If so, what were some important insights gained?
Working with salvage materials is not easy. We put in 8 months of R+D (filled with failed experiments!) to figure out how to work with our core materials. Ultimately, those failures led to a level of craft and manufacturing that exceeded our expectations, and we were able to launch a line of repurposed product that we are 100% proud of.
Have you sacrificed anything to create your business? If so, what was it, and do you have any regrets?
Yes, our paychecks and 401Ks! Right now, everything we make we put back into Rewilder and the opportunity to save more material from the landfill. Zero regrets! As we grow it becomes more and more rewarding!
What has been your proudest/favorite moment since creating your business?
The first time we sold something to someone that wasn’t friends or family. More recently, working with the SFMOMA to launch a collection for their new store has been thrilling.
How does the city you live in influence your work?
Los Angeles is incredibly diverse, surrounded by nature, but also an extremely urban environment filled with personality and creativity. We are constantly inspired by the people we meet and places we find around us.
What valuable experience/knowledge did you have before starting your business?
Jen is an architect and materials specialist, and Lisa a handbag designer. We both have over 15 years experience in our respective industries – Rewilder is a marriage of those skills.
What made you take this leap into being your own boss?
We have been best friends for many years and always dreamed of working together. After discovering our core filter cloth material we both had a lighting bolt feeling that we had finally found the opportunity to use our design skills for good, something we are both incredibly passionate about.
What are some inspirations for your work?
We are inspired first by the materials themselves, seeing the transformation from something old into something new again. We love solving problems. Formally, we are inspired to make things that are extremely useful, and that don’t fall into trends. We challenged ourselves to design a strong core collection with silhouettes that will live in your wardrobe for decades.
What are some tips or suggestions you’d like to offer to fellow makers?
Be confident and make sure you are an expert in your field. Have a strong sense of who you are and where you want to go. Know what product you’re making and who you’re making it for.