Fargo South grad poised to launch online fashion company
FARGO -- Scott Gabrielson believes high fashion has become too expensive, too quick to compromise on quality and only too happy to leave customers holding the overpriced bag.
FARGO - Scott Gabrielson believes high fashion has become too expensive, too quick to compromise on quality and only too happy to leave customers holding the overpriced bag. That's why he's poised to start his own online fashion company - Oliver Cabell - that he says will provide things like fashionable, high-quality travel bags while staying transparent in terms of the costs and what goes into making the products. Gabrielson, a 2006 Fargo South High School graduate and an alumnus of the University of Oxford in the U.K., said Oliver Cabell will work with the same Italian suppliers and factories used by some of the most respected fashion brands in the world. But instead of keeping things like costs and manufacturing locales secret, "We're actually flipping that inside out and saying, 'Hey, we're going to show you all these things,' " Gabrielson said. He studied art and design along with finance at the University of Minnesota before going to work for an investment bank, where he became aware of the business dynamics behind the fashion industry, including the stunning markups some brands command and the questionable decisions some brands make when it comes to product quality. "You could do 99 percent of production in Asia and attach a handle in Italy and say it was made in Italy," said Gabrielson, who decided to pursue an MBA at Oxford, where the idea for Oliver Cabell took shape as part of an entrepreneurship project.
The company name is a distillation created from names connected to 1960s-era movie stars Oliver Reed and Steve McQueen, the latter having once played a character named Martin Cabell. "You can't really go wrong with Steve McQueen representing a fashion brand," said Gabrielson, who plans to launch his website around November. The website may be ready before that. Check www.olivercabell.com for updates. He is now in the process of creating bag prototypes and said prior to Oliver Cabell's official rollout, he and others involved in the company plan to conduct a mini-launch by providing people close to them with incentives to spread the word. Those interested in the business can visit www.olivercabell.com. "That will be in about two weeks and we'll be communicating with about 1,500 people directly and see where it goes from there," Gabrielson said. The idea of radical transparency as a marketing approach is one that has been gaining steam in recent years. Jay Baer, a contributor to Forbes, wrote earlier this year that the marketplace is beginning to demand transparency in how companies do business. Baer said McDonald's, after losing market share to restaurants like Chipotle, responded by launching its "Our Food, Your Questions" campaign, where customers can ask McDonald's any question about its food on a special website and the company provides answers. "Smart companies like McDonald's understand they must gain consumers' trust to maintain market share in today's information-rich, suspicion-saturated business environment. And the key to consumer trust is radical transparency," Baer said. Gabrielson echoes that sentiment when he talks about his goals for Oliver Cabell. He said millennials, in particular, are not looking to buy things for their status value, but instead are interested in experiences and self discovery. "I'm really working on something that blends the humanities with technology and business," he said. "Designing in-house, dealing directly with the factory; the business model is really structured to be as value-providing as possible," Gabrielson said.