Made in Minnesota

Celebrity Fave Turns 135

Handcrafted-leather firm Duluth Pack celebrates anniversary

By Anne Kopas

It all started in 1870, when French-Canadian Camille Poirier came to Minnesota and started a leather goods store selling shoes, canoe packs, and other leather and canvas goods. He filed a patent for the Original Duluth Pack in 1882, and the echoes of this design are still present today. “We are officially the oldest canvas and leather bag maker in the United States,” says Andrea Sega, a spokesperson for Duluth Pack.

In the decades since, Duluth Pack has adapted to the times, selling autopacks for the first automobiles, shell bags for hunters, luggage for airline travel, and now, laptop-friendly bags (not to mention making more repairs than sales during the Great Depression).

Throughout those 135 years, one common thread is that each Duluth Pack product is still handcrafted. In fact, the company found a niche partnering with local concert venues to supply gifts for entertainers, some of whom become loyal customers. Duluth Pack products are carried by celebrities including Britney Spears, Leonardo DiCaprio and Kendall Jenner.

“People are really loving the heritage,” says Sega. “It’s really a person behind the pack.” All products come with a tag signed by the canvas sewer or leather cutter, which gives each pack a personal twist — and Duluth Pack’s website encourages thanking your craftsperson personally via email.

But the old-fashioned handcrafted style has not kept Duluth Pack out of the modern world. The company just remodeled its retail store in downtown Duluth. “It’s very outdoorsy,” says Sega, but she adds that it is now “more modern, [and] a lot more shoppable.”

Duluth Pack’s successes have not shaken its Minnesota roots, “We’re based in Duluth, Minnesota. We’re not going anywhere,” says Sega. “We’re always going to keep our DNA. We’ll just keep grinding at what we’re doing.”