Nowadays, the standard price tags and labeling on designer bags seem to indicate less and less about how well—or even where—it’s made. Thus, newly launched Oliver Cabell regards utmost transparency as a distinguishing factor, joining like-minded direct-to-consumer disruptors like Everlane and Proper Assembly. Oliver Cabell’s noticeably small markup is exactly 2.2 times the cost. The artisan factory, as well as the cotton mill and leather tannery that make the materials, is in Italy. These products, at their core, are simple and well-built canvas travel bags aimed to last you many, many trips; no bells and whistles needed.
Founder Scott Gabrielson—a former investment banker who later pursued a master’s degree at the University of Oxford, studying evolution of the fashion industry—cites design legend Dieter Rams as a heavy influence on the aesthetic. “We’re focusing on form and function and removing all externalities that distract from this,” he tells CH. This includes hidden branding, which reveals itself only as the exterior flap of the backpack is lifted, for example.
The brand has decided to use strong, durable canvas for the main material (even the backpack straps) and leather for the closing strap, top handle, etc. Gabrielson explains that leather can actually tend to be heavier, and that cotton canvas is naturally more scratch- and water-resistant. But most importantly, high-quality cotton is cheaper than high-quality leather. “We wanted to use the finest materials available while still being able to offer our goods at an affordable price,” he says.
“By choosing cotton instead of leather we were able to partner with the best cotton mill in the world without having our bags be incredibly expensive. We combined the canvas with an amazing Italian leather and some of the best fittings available to really elevate the bags.” Initially, there were problems working with this family-run cotton supplier in Montappone, Italy because of Oliver Cabell’s lower production volume, but eventually Gabrielson was able to convince them to take a chance.
Shop Oliver Cabell’s weekender ($285) and backpack ($240) online; each style is available in three colorways: black, navy and beige. Be sure to check out the graphic that breaks down the materials, labor, transit and duties cost for each bag.
Images courtesy of Oliver Cabell