Understanding why luxury goods are so expensive has always been somewhat of a murky endeavor. The brands will tell you it’s because the products are assembled by highly-skilled artisans with the finest materials, and that that kind of quality costs money. In certain cases, it is absolutely true. In others, however, the high price is simply what the market will bear.
As Scott Gabrielson started gathering string on the economics of the luxury market while studying for his Master’s degree at Oxford, he began to realize that there might be a better way. A former investment banker and non-profit worker, Gabrielson saw that many large luxury conglomerates were offshoring their production and marking their bags and accessories up so much was to offset losses in other areas of the business.
So when Gabrielson launched his luxury bag brand Oliver Cabell earlier this year, he wanted to be incredibly transparent about his business model. Oliver Cabell currently offers two styles of bags, a weekender and a backpack, with a third style, a dopp kit, set to launch in the coming weeks. For each item, the company lists both the provenance and the cost structure. A customer can see that the Kennedy Weekender, for example, is made in a factory in Italy and that it cost $157.73 to produce ($71.57 for materials, $69.95 for labor, $7.29 for transportation, and $8.92 for duties). Then he can see that the brand marks the bag up 80% to sell at retail, compared with the 974% markup typical of luxury brands.
As the founder of a luggage brand, Gabrielson also makes sure his products see plenty of use, whether it’s traveling to Italy to visit factories or flying to Tenerife in the Canary Islands for some kitesurfing. To find out how he survives and thrives during those adventures, we asked Gabrielson to share his Travel Essentials.
OTHR ICO BOTTLE OPENER
It isn’t easy for a bottle opener to be a conversation piece, but this one pulls it off. “When you’re traveling you never know if you’ll have an opener. Having one that works from both a design aesthetic as well as being incredibly functional is unique,” says Gabrielson. It’s 3D-printed in matte black steel, and every facet works as a bottle opener, so it’s actually something like 60 openers in one. The limited edition piece was made by Othr with Brooklyn design studion Fort Standard. “I’m a huge fan of Othr. Each of their products delivers on three elements: usefulness, every product has to have a purpose; aesthetic, it has to be beautifully designed; and uniqueness, they’re all exclusively designed for Othr.”
COMMON PROJECTS ACHILLES
Count Gabrielson among the numerous devotees of Common Projects’ perfectly minimal Achilles sneakers. He’s a fan, like the rest of us, for the fact that they go great with everything from jeans to a suit. But Gabrielson also has a special connection to the brand: They are made in the same region of Italy as Oliver Cabell products. “Knowing that they were in the factory that we were going to be in gave us confidence in not only the factory but in Common Projects as well,” he says. “I know first-hand that they’re made incredibly well and aren’t going to fall apart after the third or 300th wear.”
OLIVER CABELL LOGAN BACKPACK
As an aspiring luxury brand, Gabrielson initially wasn’t sure if a backpack was the right fit for Oliver Cabell. But he eventually managed to create a backpack with an elevated design sensibility and incredible versatility. “You can bring it to the beach or the boardroom. The aesthetic is pared down to keep things from getting overcluttered,” he says. Gabrielson still uses one of the early prototypes and takes pride in the fact that it looks almost the same as a new one. “It’s great to see that the quality is what we expected it to be.”
Gabrielson first discovered the magazine through the Japanese bicycle company Tokyobike, which sold Openhouse on its website. The twice-yearly publication out of Lleida, Spain is guaranteed to give you serious apartment/home envy. “Creative people from around the world open their homes to show different things from food, art, and design,” Gabrielson says. “It’s incredibly visual, well-executed, and articulate.”
WARBY PARKER X GHOSTLY HENNING SUNGLASSES
Gabrielson received these shades as a gift from his girlfriend and says they are the lightest and most comfortable pair he’s ever owned. The fact that they resulted from a collaboration between two brands that he respects immensely, Warby Parker and music label Ghostly, only adds to the appeal. “Warby Parker paved the way for creating a direct-to-consumer brand focusing on value and service and Ghostly stands for a lot of values that are really core to us.”
OLIVER CABELL DOPP KIT
Oliver Cabell’s newest offering is a dopp kit that is set to launch in the next 2-3 weeks. Constructed of cotton and leather, it is priced at $95, making it the brand’s best value. “It won’t fall apart like the free dopp kit you get when you buy cologne,” Gabrielson says. He paid particular attention to the size of the kit because most of the ones he’d owned previously were either too small or too big.
ORLEBAR BROWN BULLDOG SHORTS
“I discovered this brand when I was living in England,” says Gabrielson. “It’s one of the only well-executed swimwear brands I’ve seen around.” The shorts are much more tailored than a typical pair of boardshorts, making them sophisticated enough to transition from lounging by the pool to lunching at a restaurant afterward. While Orlebar Brown makes shorts with some bolder prints and photographs, Gabrielson prefers to stick to the solids.