Fashion Rule Breakers

Fashion Rule Breakers: Meet The Founder Of An Independent Accessories Brand Bringing Transparency To Its Customers

"People love those willing to question the status quo, and you’re in the best position to do so when you don’t know anything."

Fashion Rule Breakers is an original A Plus Lifestyle series: Each month, we profile a fashion designer, model, organization, or icon who is a fashion rule breaker — someone who acts outside mainstream industry standards to make a positive difference.

In an industry often defined by revolving trends dictated by fast fashion, one brand called Oliver Cabell is sticking to just one  — creating classic weekend bags and travel accessories with design and quality in mind. Nothing more, nothing less.

The brand was created in 2015 by Scott Gabrielson, who left a non-profit to break into the industry, sans fashion, retail, or start-up experience. Driven by a passion, Gabrielson launched Oliver Cabell  "built out of respect for clean design that captures both practical functionality and a refined aesthetic," according to their website. Furthermore, customers are told the story behind each of the goods, and the cost to make it. 

Since lifting his business off the ground, Gabrielson's has been recognized by fashion and news publications alike; GQ magazine, WWD, The Huffington Post, and Forbes, to name a few. 

With a focus on quality, design, practicality, and a transparent business model uncommon in the accessory space, Gabrielson is a Fashion Rule Breaker. 

We caught up with Gabrielson to learn more about the inspiration behind Oliver Cabell, what it's like to start a business from scratch, and the importance of creating "only what is necessary."

"Every idea starts with a problem," Gabrielson told A Plus in an email. 

In 2014, Gabrielson visited a factory in China and noticed the poor working environment there. Employees were making low wages and working long hours in cramped spaces. He saw one bag — claimed to have been made in Italy that cost under $100 to make — being sold to consumers at over $1,200. 

Forbes notes "upscale bags hold the highest markup in luxury fashion, selling for 12 to 20 times the cost to make. These brands also regularly raise prices, some 15 percent over the past 15 years."

Gabrielson's frustration with the lack of transparency in high-end fashion, and its negative effects on the consumer, led him to create Oliver Cabell. So, at just 28 years old, Gabrielson launched the brand with a focus on "quality materials, responsible manufacturing processes, and transparency."

"As such, we reveal our suppliers, factories, and costs — information that brands protect to keep secret. Furthermore, we deeply focus on design and cutting out the noise; our goal is to create the highest quality, most refined products, nothing more, nothing less. These ideologies are embedded into everything that we do, and, as such, allow us to offer the highest quality products at the lowest price possible. It's a big differentiator for us. No one can provide more value than we are," he claims.

Gabrielson also explained this "nothing more, nothing less" philosophy means the brand is not trend focused, but rather the products are meant to withstand the test of time. Gabrielson himself still carries the first-ever sample created for the brand, the Logan backpack, crafted from premium Italian cotton and leather. It's currently sold for $240, in three neutral colors, with a price breakdown available online. 

"There is so much noise when building a product, that it's easy to get lost on how things are actually made and where they are coming from," he says. "There are layers upon layers of middlemen, agents, wholesalers, etc., and we cut all of this out so we can fully understand where are products and materials are coming from."

 Of course, starting a business from scratch doesn't come without its obstacles, and for Gabrielson, the biggest challenge was awareness. 

"Building a brand is really hard, especially with how cheap it is to launch a website today. The space is becoming incredibly crowded. It takes a lot of energy and creativity to gain awareness, but we've found collaborations and partnerships to be a great way to do so."

When asked what advice he has for others like him — those with a passion, but no correlated experience — Gabrielson says "go for it."

"There is something very refreshing about being an industry outsider and questioning how everything has traditionally been done. People love those willing to question the status quo, and you’re in the best position to do so when you don’t know anything."

Check out more from Oliver Cabell on their website and Instagram

For more Fashion Rule Breakers, click here.

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