- Buyer's Guide
Oppermann London :: A New Move
Oppermann London is a brand focused on producing minimalist leather goods that blend Swedish and London design aesthetics with quality craftsmanship and a dedication to functionality. The brand has recently made the move to become an online-only brand, with distribution of their products solely through their webshop. In this new model, they don’t sell through retailers anymore, so they can avoid their markups.
The beauty of cutting out the middlemen is that they have been able to dramatically increase the quality of their product. Every product is now handmade in Italy, only using premium European materials – and thanks to the new business model prices are unchanged. We got behind-the-scenes insight from the brand’s co-founder Mattis Oppermann on design inspirations, new releases and his thoughts on the online-only business model…
What did you do before Oppermann London, what were your passions and interests?
I was studying Design & Engineering and my brother Niklas was studying Finance. It was while we were at university here in London that we started designing the first samples for what came to be Oppermann London. It wasn’t long before we started working full time with Oppermann. Niklas graduated in 2012 and I graduated this year. We feel that our very separated fields of study is an invaluable asset to what we do.
Whilst not from a fashion background, we’ve always been inspired by and enjoyed everything that has been designed and engineered beautifully. Being from Sweden (where almost everything is nicely designed) helps to build a strong passion and appreciation for design.
Can you remember the first piece of carry that you really loved? What started the obsession?
A mountaineering backpack from a Swedish brand called Everest. It lasted for many years and accompanied us to beautiful places.
Was design and fashion a part of your early life or did you discover it later?
With our father being an engineer and our mother an art teacher, we always had the DIY spirit at home. In the very early days it was not so much about fashion per se, but we could often be found helping our father repairing something in the garage. Or painting, or creating something artistically with our mom.
I believe design and technology has always been part of our lives, but our interest in menswear arose when we were in high school where you started to be inspired by the people around you and expressive with your stylistic choices. Neither of us had thought of fashion as a definite career choice but Niklas shortly worked in the German menswear retailer Ansons, which was later proven to be very helpful.
When did you know you wanted to be designers? Was there a moment or a profound influence that nudged you on your path?
About three years ago during Christmas time, we were looking for a high-quality leather laptop sleeve at an attainable price point. Finding this was much more difficult than we thought and resulted in an embarrassing gift, which was quickly returned. This was the moment where we started imagining how we might design the product ourselves.
From that point onwards, creating our first collection became a bit of a part-time obsession. We found it pleasing to learn as much as we could about leather, components, and locating our first manufacturing partner. I believe that as a result of all the “tinkering” at home I was convinced that I wanted to study product design at university.
What was the first thing you remember designing?
Whilst living in Shanghai we often went to a tailor market during the weekends and had a lot of shirts done. You could go there and choose between thousands of fabrics and buttons and have them tailored for about $20.
What was your first design success?
I would say that our first design success was the Core Collection of Oppermann London. Our first collection hit the ground running and we’re very pleased with it. It has been perfect in establishing our signature style. We’re particularly proud of the bags and briefcases; however, the iPad mini sleeve was not as popular as we expected and will be the only product we’re removing from the collection.
This story is not fashion design related but it’s a funny design failure. Some summers ago, twiddling our thumbs in the Swedish countryside, Niklas and I attempted to build a flying drone. We thought that it couldn’t be that hard. So we built one. And it took off! But within seconds, and after a big crash, our drone was in smithereens. When the day comes, and I have enough time for these boyish projects, I would love to make up for this embarrassing failure.
What drives you to design the things you do? Where do your passions lie?
Our mission is to create minimalistic styles that do not compromise on their functionality. We’ve noticed repeatedly that minimalism and functionalism go very well together. Much of what we do is inspired by modernist architecture. Architecture is an essential part of any moodboard we create.
We’re constantly trying to design products with the customers’ need for form and function at the forefront, and this formula is an almost addictive obsession for us. We prefer to move slow, and improve existing products rather than constantly push out new models. But to explore future projects, where we could apply our designs, is a driving force behind our brand.
You’ve recently made the bold shift from the traditional retail model to becoming an online-only brand, why the move?
We were getting frustrated with the markups and middlemen in the traditional construct. We wanted to go all the way with our products, with no compromise on quality. So we scoured the globe and looked for the perfect components to build the perfect bag. However, if we continued through the traditional retail model, we would have to charge our customers over £1,000 because of all the people between us and our customers. So we said goodbye to the stores and the hefty markups that come with all the middlemen, and have brought ourselves closer to our customers. Our goal is to create the world’s best leather bags, whilst remaining as affordable as possible. And that’s why we’ve become online-only.
Do you see it as the inevitable future for all brands?
Inevitable is a strong word. But I definitely think that many young brands will adopt this retail model, as it is the most sustainable method currently available. I’m glad that we have had the experience of the traditional retail model before changing ourselves; it was an invaluable experience for us as we did not come from a fashion background. However, if I were starting Oppermann London today with the experience and knowledge I’ve amassed over time, there is no doubt that I would start as an online-only brand.
Tell us about your new collection. What’s new? Why is it awesome?
Our new collection, The Surfaces Collection, consists of two new products; Hanbury and Bolton. Both with a tumbled leather from Tärnsjö Garveri in Sweden and a smooth trim leather from Artigiano Del Cuoio, Italy. The different textures of the leathers in combination with the handle and trim endings receding underneath the outer panels is the reason for its name, Surfaces.
We’ve only been working with smooth leather before so we’re super excited to launch our first tumbled line. When we first started Oppermann we weren’t big fans of tumbled leather, but after finding the Plymå leather from Tärnsjö in Sweden, we were completely sold. We really like the fact that our tumbled line is not embossed, but rather naturally structured to give it that artisanal finish. This means that the intensity of the structure varies across the product and creates a fine natural aesthetic.
We also feel that with the Hanbury and Bolton we’ve extended our range to include what we, and our customers, thought was missing. The Hanbury is a compact weekender, a bit larger and a bit more relaxed than our 25-hour bag. And the Bolton fits just between our briefcase Vallance and 25-hour bag Palissy. Even though the overall shapes might be less formal, we believe that the Surfaces range works equally fine in the office or for days off.
What single item are you most proud of?
The Briefcase Vallance. I think it’s a unique piece in terms of its aesthetics, features, and format. It’s understated in its elegance and is one of our most versatile bags. It’ll always be a slim briefcase by observation, but it’s easy to forget how spacious it really is. We believe that all that is in there is all that is needed.
*Editor’s Note: Oppermann London has now rebranded to Carl Friedrik.