The 26-year-old leather handbag brand Hobo is embarking on a series of pop-ups, with the first one scheduled for New York in SoHo.
The New York pop-up — Hobo Leather Lounge hosted by Artists & Fleas — will open Oct. 27 and run through Dec. 3 at the Artists and Fleas SoHo location.
Koren Ray and her husband David Brewer own the Hobo brand. She took over ownership from her mother Toni Ray, who founded the brand in 1991 in Annapolis, Md. According to Ray, the idea of the Leather Lounge has its roots in Georgetown Leather, the D.C. leather shop her mom started in the Seventies.
Ray said, “We talk a lot of direct-to-consumer growth and the best way to reach our consumer directly. A chain of stores with the Hobo brand didn’t seem right.” The two instead came up with the idea of putting down “temporary roots in hip cities” to create a localized experience and celebrate the craft of leather goods.
She said that for Leather Lounge, they invited local leather makers from Brooklyn and other parts of New York. Every Saturday there will be a craftsmaker on site showing how the product is made. In addition to the experienced artisans working at the Lounge, there also will be a marketplace open throughout the entire duration of the pop-up that sells leather goods, including several styles deemed longtime Hobo favorites. One such favorite is the Lauren wallet clutch. Now in its 12th year, the company has sold over 1 million Lauren wallets since it was first introduced. The market will also showcase a curated assortment of Seventies vintage, one-of-a-kind, leather accessories from Ray’s personal collection.
Ray said there will also be three nights where the Lounge will be an open-mic environment. There will also be a spot to house a coffee bar. “We created a place where you would want to spend time in, and not just to shop,” she said.
Brewer said they haven’t yet selected the next town for the Lounge, stating it could be Memphis, Austin or even in their home state of Maryland, such as Baltimore.
Over the past 26 years in operation, there hadn’t been much in the way of a marketing or media presence. Yet the brand has a strong distribution mostly to independents and to some retailers, such as Nordstrom, as well as direct-to-consumer on the company web site. The latter is the fastest-growing part of the business, Brewer said. There is one store in Annapolis, which he described as “more of a lab,” and a way to interact with the local community.
“We’ve always been about quality over quantity. We make as much as we know we can do well. The next generation of consumers values quality over quantity. They recognize that Hobo is a very authentic brand experience, and that the product aligns so beautifully with their values,” Ray said.
Brewer said that the company has never been about setting out to be a megabrand and be overexposed. “Everything we did was about reinvesting in the product,” he added.
Brewer also said the direct-to-consumer channel is focused on gaining that next-generation audience. “They’re not so much interested in the throwaway culture. They are interested in the real people behind the brands,” he said.
The average retail price for a wallet is $118, while handbags can range between $248 to $288 at retail. While the brand has dabbled in other categories such as eyewear, it has stayed true to its handbag focus.
What will be new — and slated to be introduced at the Lounge — is the new men’s line, with price points ranging from $50 to $598. Brewer said the higher price point is for the large duffel offering. He added that the category is more about long-term investments, and the men’s category tends to not turn as fast nor is it as fashion trendy in either color or style.
Brewer added that the leather is sourced in the top U.S. tanneries for the men’s line. For women’s, the leather is sourced from Italy and France. All are cut and sewn in Asia.