New fashion brand Oliver Cabell is “seeking to disrupt the luxury fashion business” with an unmatched level of transparency around its products. Exclusively available online, each product’s page on the company’s website details where the item was made and the costs that went into it, including the brand’s mark-up.
By working directly with Italian factories and using quality materials and responsible manufacturing processes, Oliver Cabell says it is able to offer high-quality products at a fraction of traditional luxury prices. Designing in-house, selling only online, and forgoing traditional mark-ups are some of the ways the brand is cutting costs; in stark contrast to what its founder, Scott Gabrielson, claims more established brands have done to increase their margins.
“More than three quarters of designer goods purchases come from a handful of companies. This allows these brands to mark-up its products 10-20 times what they cost to make. Bags and leather goods are the most demanded, and in turn hold the highest mark-ups,” Gabrielson said.
“When you buy fashion goods you often buy a brand. The problem is that these companies keep the brand but change the way they make things, and it has never been in the interest of consumers,” he added. “If you’re buying from high-end brands at expensive prices, you automatically assume that it’s of high quality. It’s usually not. And that’s crazy.”
With his new venture, Gabrielson hopes to offer consumers “an honest alternative” to more established brands that have failed to raise their social and environmental standards despite the expensive prices of their goods. He first0learned of the realities of the fashion industry following the infamous Rana Plaza factory collapse in 2013 that killed over 1,130 people in Bangladesh. He quit his job in business development at an education non-profit to pursue a Master’s degree at theUniversity of Oxford, where he focused his studies on the evolution of the fashion industry.
One experience particularly sticks out for him: “While visiting a factory in Asia we sawcramped female workers, earning $7 a day, gluing and sewing designer bags and accessories,” Gabrielson recalled. “One of the bags, which the brand claimed to only produce in Italy, cost under $100 to make. It sold for over $1,200 just down the road.”
The team at Oliver Cabell hope to tap into the shift in perspective from ‘consuming’ labels and megabrands to ‘experiencing’ and self-discovery that is being driven by Millennials. While consumers may be willing to pay a higher price for a product, the company asserts that the price should be justified by its quality. Related to this, Gabrielson noted, “We hope Oliver Cabell relates to people differently than traditional fashion brands. We believe that telling the story behind our products and providing value will do more for us marketing-wise than any big advertising initative.”
Oliver Cabell is inviting consumers to “Hold on to the Good,” with itsfirst bags – a weekender duffle and a slim backpack, each available in three colors – which became available for sale today. Both are made completely in Italy: They are manufactured in an artisan factory in Marche, use cotton from a mill in Montappone, and use leather from a tannery in Monte Urano. Oliver Cabell claims it evaluates every supplier “on factors such as environmental and ethical standards.”
As a whole, the ethical fashion movement has been growing. From exposés on cotton sustainability, to Fashion Revolution’sTransparency Index and annual awareness campaign, to startups creating more durable clothes in the fight against ‘fast fashion,’ brands are facing more and more pressure to raise their social and environmental standards. Furthermore, companies are beginning to launch footprint-measuring and traceability tools to give consumers added transparency, such as Reformation’s RefScale, which shows the environmental footprint associated with each of the small brand’s products, and Dutch Awearness’ Circular Content Management System, which uses barcodes to ensure full traceability and is available for other producers to use.
Some in the space recognize that the industry’s practices need to change. For example, luxury apparel manufacturer Kering recently called for more collaboration to improve sustainability performance and drive innovation.
*This story first appeared on Sustainable Brands
By Lainie Lamicella
This year’s Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) Fashion Awards in New York City Monday, not only recognized fashion designers, journalists and influencers, but activists who interrupted the event shed some light on one of the biggest names in fashion reportedly contributing to forest destruction.
Dressed in formal wear for the event, activists from Rainforest Action Network’s (RAN) Out of Fashion campaign, displayed a large banner and handed out balloons and business cards printed with a parody logo of the demonstration’s target, Ralph Lauren. The logo features the brand’s name in its iconic navy and tan but positioned on a circular saw. RAN is accusing the luxury brand of making clothes at the expense of deforestation and human rights abuse and is urging it to adopt new policies that commit to using only forest-friendly fabrics in its products.
“Every year, millions of trees are turned into clothing through the use of forest fabrics like rayon and viscose,” Brihannala Morgan, RAN’s senior forest campaigner, said. “This scandal has been hidden in plain sight for too long, but no more. The time has come for the fashion industry, and in particular Ralph Lauren, to take responsibility for its impacts on people and the planet and to publicly adopt binding policies that prevent deforestation, human rights abuses and climate pollution from being woven into the fabrics Americans wear everyday.”
Morgan added, “There are some brands that are taking action on this issue, like H&M and Stella McCartney, but Ralph Lauren isn’t one of them, and there’s just no excuse. As one of the biggest fashion brands in the world, Ralph Lauren has the ability and resources to ensure that human rights abuses and forest destruction won’t be a part of their next collection.”
Ralph Lauren is just one of the brands among the “Fashion 15” group of companies RAN is urging to take responsibility for their supply chains, including Prada, LVMH, Tory Burch, Michael Kors, Vince, Guess, Velvet, L Brands, Forever 21, Under Armour, Footlocker, Abercrombie and Fitch, GAIAM and Beyond Yoga. RAN said it wants the brands to identify negative manufacturing components and develop commitments to protecting forests and human rights.
** This post first appeared on Sourcing Journal here.