Minneapolis-based leather goods brand Oliver Cabell launched a little more than a year ago and already wants to disrupt the sneaker market. In fact, the company has raised $1.2 million to do so. The funding for the capital raise stems from just one investor — who has chosen to remain anonymous — and will allow the leather accessories brand to expand into footwear beginning in November.
“When we launched, it was leather goods and bags specifically. We were trying to figure out what the next step for us is. There’s a coveted audience that loves footwear, and the amount that can be done there is much more than with bags,” said founder Scott Gabrielson on the decision to venture into shoes.
With all goods made in Spain and Italy, Gabrielson and his team received eye-opening exposure to footwear in Marche, Italy, where much of their business is conducted, sparking the idea to expand into the category. Oliver Cabell will also be implementing a unique “drop of the week” model with its upcoming launch, releasing a brand-new style each week. So far, at least 40 designs — intended to be unisex — are being sourced and in production and are expected to retail between $170 and $210.
Gabrielson spoke to Footwear News to detail the capital raise and what he means by wanting to “disrupt the market.”
FN: How would you describe what you’re doing?
“We launched Oliver Cabell late July 2016. The premise of the brand is, we are a direct-to-consumer brand. The reason for that is to cut out traditional markups. Secondly, we don’t need to produce in a traditional calendar. Third is direct communication with customers. With every piece we create, we reveal our costs and tell the story of the people behind it. We produce all of our products to last 10 to 15 years.”
FN: How did you raise the funds for the footwear launch?
“We needed to raise a lot of financing to get there, and $1.2 million in financing from one individual is pretty rare. [The anonymous investor] felt that much of our story is authentic and organic. We try to be transparent in everything we do. We show all of our pricing costs, where we are sourcing, what the factories look like. It felt organic to him, and we got him on board.”
FN: Why release a new shoe each week as opposed to one full drop?
“We were thinking through how we want to release the footwear. What makes the most sense to us is that we will launch the initial collection in November and every single week we will be releasing a completely new style. Part of the capital raise was to make sure that our sampling, prototype and production would be in line with all the drops. In conjunction, we will be doing collaborations with different designers and athletes.”
FN: What can customers expect as far as aesthetic?
“We see a few core classic timeless silhouettes — retro runners, low-tops, high-tops, cap toes — we are putting our own spin on each of those, leveraging the approach and design we’ve taken, which is using textures and colors more so than ornate designs. All are fairly minimalistic, but our goal is to really use a variety of textures, outsoles, colorways and the rest to really play on those silhouettes. We will be doing unique things like a deerskin shoe, pony hair shoe, a ton of different textures and exotics.”
FN: What do you mean when you say you want to disrupt the market?
“In terms of the Nikes and Adidas, they have a specific place in the market, and a lot of it is defined around price, quality and their styling. They are still heavily athletic-focused. What we are doing is taking an old-world approach where all of our footwear is hand-stitched in Spain and Italy using high-end materials — Italian leathers and suedes — that you see with big luxury brands. With us, we aren’t selling to retail, and a big part of our story is cutting out all the markups we can.”
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