Oliver Cabell raises $1.2 million to slip into the shoe business

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Source:   —  October 22, 2017, at 8:04 PM

With the new cash, raised from an undisclosed angel investor, the company is also experimenting with a beautiful ambitious business model, according to chief executive and founder Scott Gabrielson.

Oliver Cabell raises $1.2 million to slip into the shoe business

The company’s high finish canvas and leather bags caused a bit of a stir around TechCrunch’s offices a few years ago (we were too active using the bags to review them) — and presently the company’s prepared to attempt on footwear to look how the new product line will fit.

With the new cash, raised from an undisclosed angel investor, the company is also experimenting with a beautiful ambitious business model, according to chief executive and founder Scott Gabrielson.

Gabrielson said the company will be releasing a new shoe each week. That’s a large undertaking for a tiny company with only roughly $1 million in financing, but Gabrielson said that with new manufacturing capabilities the model can definitely work.

Most shoe manufacturers work with brands that have seasonal shoe releases (because they’re re-selling the shoes to traditional, physical retail), Gabrielson explained. That leads to enormous swings in production demand and slower times for manufacturers between seasonal releases.

“Since we're direct to consumer and slice out the retailer, we don’t have to work this way,” says Gabrielson. “By creating weekly drops we're able to allow fixed work through traditionally unhurried periods of the year, which allows us to deal better terms (i. e. minimums, turn around times, etc.) and produce in this fairly atypical manner,” Gabrielson wrote to me in an email.

For Oliver Cabell, it’s all about the process, Gabrielson tells me. The sneakers are made using full grain leather from the Veneto region of Italy with soles from suppliers Margom and Dila.

“We seek out companies that focus on making one thing really well, and partner with them for the long term. By doing so we form unique, long-lasting relationships with these suppliers as well, which allows us to purchase lower quantities, gain first access to unique materials, and have more flexibility with payment terms,” according to Gabrielson.

The faster pace of production lets the company be more creative with silhouettes and materials, he continued.

The thrust into footwear is portion of a broader vision of a new kind of clothing company. The 29-year-old Gabrielson first opened his eyes to the brutal realities of the traditional fashion industry in two thousand-thirteenth after the Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh.

“Soon after, I quit my work in business development for an education non-profit and pursued a master’s degree at the Univ of Oxford, where I focused my studies on the evolution of the fashion industry. I discovered that even traditional designer brands had succumbed to the “fast fashion” movement,” Gabrielson wrote to me. “While visiting a factory in Asia I saw cramped female workers, earning $7 a day, gluing and sewing designer bags and accessories. One of the bags, which the brand claimed to only produce in Italy, cost below 0 to make. It sold for over $1.200 just down the road.”

Manufacturers and suppliers in emerging markets have consolidated to the point where roughly three-quarters of designer goods arrive from just a handful of companies, says Gabrielson.

That consolidation leads to high mark-ups, particularly in leather goods. “This led to the formation of Oliver Cabell (and why we reveal everything from our factories to our costs and markup).

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