Scott Gabrielson founded Oliver Cabell to inject ethics and transparency into the fashion business
Oliver Cabell is an ethical, online-only fashion brand that creates beautiful luxury goods in Italy with the lowest possible markup. It is fully transparent of all the costs in the manufacturing process. It was established by Oxford Saïd MBA alumnus Scott Gabrielson.
Scott’s motivation to start Oliver Cabell was the terrible event of the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh collapsing in 2013, killing 1,130 people. Scott comments: ‘It gave me a glimpse into the stark reality of some of the fashion industry. At factories like this you will have cramped workers, earning $7 a day, gluing and sewing high end designer bags and accessories. It is not unusual to find bags, which brands can claim to be produced in France or Italy, costing under $100 to make, but being sold for $1,200 in the shops.’
Scott, who was working in investment banking at the time, was convinced there was a more ethical and better way to produce fashionable products. Transparency is the most important factor for Oliver Cabell. On every piece that the company produces, the price tag reveals a complete breakdown of all the costs of production and tells the story of where the materials come from, the factory and people who made it.
His decision to study for an MBA was motivated by wanting to do something different. ‘I knew investment banking wasn’t a career I wanted to continue with. I embarked on the MBA to help me reassess my long term personal and career goals,’ he says.
He continues: ‘There were some very good reasons why I chose Oxford to as the place to study. First, was the focus on entrepreneurship, which I saw as a great opportunity to develop my idea for Oliver Cabell, and work with some amazing classmates who could turn make my idea into reality. Second, it was a one-year programme, which was ideal for me as I did not want to take two years out of work. Lastly, I completely fell in love with the campus and city after visiting. It was nearly impossible not want to attend such an amazing university.’
‘I was a bit uncomfortable moving to a country I’d never visited with people I’d never met, but it was the best decision I have ever made. I worked and socialised with some of the smartest people from around the world who I now consider life-long friends. These relationships have paid dividends in both my personal and professional life.’
In 2017, Oliver Cabell has raised an additional round of capital and is planning to increase its product categories and move into footwear. It is also expanding its team and targeting a more global presence. ‘We are in a good place and there is momentum behind our philosophy,’ relays Scott. Increasingly consumers do want to buy high end goods, at the expense of ethics and fairness.’
Scott reflects on how the MBA and his time at Oxford helped him get to this point: ‘My time at Oxford allowed me to bring my rough idea from concept to full pitch. It was incredibly impactful. Whilst on the MBA, I focused on learning as much as I could about the inner workings of the fashion industry. I also improved my knowledge of other areas of management and business. Most of all, I learnt such a lot from working with a diverse class of people from different industries and different parts of the world.’