New luxe-minded brands are trying to make up for what they lack in heritage with their own story of transparency and accessibility.
And the latest entrant is Oliver Cabell, an online-only startup that aims to craft high-end products while being open about the process. The company shares details on its suppliers, factories and costs — including the markup — with customers. It is starting today with two bags, a backpack and a duffel bag, that will be sold online for $200 to $300.
According to founder and chief executive Scott Gabrielson, the bags would normally cost approximately $1,000 or more at traditional retailers, while the cost to produce them is approximately $123, with $44 going toward materials, $66 to labor and the rest toward transit and duties.
The idea came to Gabrielson while he was pursuing a master’s degree in business at the University of Oxford and arrives at a time when consumers — particularly the younger generation — are increasingly valuing experiences and self-discovery in the shopping process.
While studying the evolution of the fashion industry, Gabrielson visited a factory in Asia and observed the production of bags and accessories that cost less than $100 to make, but were sold nearby for $1,200. The first two designs from the company, called the Kennedy Weekender and Logan Backpack (named after airports), are produced in Italy, including the sourcing of the cotton and leather. Fulfillment and warehousing are based in Minneapolis. The bags come in black, navy and beige and will be sold directly to the consumer on the company’s website. Gabrielson said that he expected a slow and deliberate approach toward product expansion.
The company name was inspired after characters played by actors Oliver Reed and Steve McQueen, a “rebellious duo who spurred a generation to take the road less traveled,” Gabrielson said.
The idea of cost transparency in fashion and accessories has been gaining steam. Everlane, for example, consistently under-orders its simple basics to combat waste and markdowns, and is built on a culture of “radical transparency,” including factories and costs. Its popular Petra bags, which came out in 2013, cost up to $210 to produce and were priced at up to $425 — and were among the brand’s most expensive items.
Cuyana, which similarly started as a direct-to-consumer accessories company, promotes a policy of “fewer, better things” and offers a canvas and leather overnight bag for $215. And Gustin started by crowdsourcing $81 men’s selvedge denim jeans that would normally have been more than $200. It has expanded into apparel and accessories, and is currently funding a leather weekender for $549.
“We hope that Oliver Cabell relates to people differently than traditional fashion brands,” Gabrielson said. “We believe that telling the story behind our products and providing value will do more for us marketing-wise than any big advertising initiative.”