An Interview with
Oliver Co. London
Today I’m really excited to introduce a brand I’ve become a big fan of over the past few months after first discovering them through Facebook advertising late last year. Oliver Co. hooked me immediately thanks to their ethical stance and sustainable approach to the development of their wallet range. Oliver Co. themselves are climate-neutral certified along with being a member of the 1% for the Planet which means they give 1% of their sales back to the environment – whether or not they were profitable.
Having talked with Matt, the founder of Oliver Co., and having the opportunity to use a few of their wallets, it became clear to me that not only do they have great responsible business practices, that are very important at the moment, but also the style, design, and functionality that make for a great wallet. I sat down with Matt and asked him a few questions about his wallet range, the ethics of Oliver Co., and what the future holds for this emerging brand.
About Oliver Co. London
”Through transparency and innovation we want to create highly functional products that cause as little environmental impact as possible. It is our aim to change people’s perceptions and, through using innovative new sustainable fabrics and working with high-end manufacturers, we want to create minimalistic functional designs that outlive fashion’s seasonal trends”.
For anyone unfamiliar with Oliver Co., tell us a bit about your shop. What made you start a business in wallets?
Oliver Co. is a sustainably progressive accessories brand using innovative new vegan materials and high-end manufacturers to create minimalist, functional products that cause as little environmental impact as possible. We are a direct-to-consumer brand, meaning we cut out the middlemen associated with traditional retail. This allows us to spend more money on high-quality materials and ethical craftsmanship, whilst still selling at a competitive price.
Before starting Oliver Co. I was working at a consultancy, designing watches for some of the big luxury brands. During my time there, I had personally been trying to change the way I shopped and move towards a more sustainable lifestyle. Yet what I was seeing on the market were products that were lacking in desirability, looks, and functionality. A stark contrast to the meticulous design detail and craftsmanship I was used to seeing in my work.
At the same time, there were a number of suppliers releasing new innovative low-impact materials that I believed have huge potential. I saw an opportunity to try and change people’s perceptions of sustainability, draw on my past experience, and build an accessories brand that created great-looking functional products with sustainability built into its foundations from the outset.
Oliver Co. is quite motivated in providing goods with a more sustainable approach compared to most wallet brands? What was your motivation behind your ethical and environmental approach?
My motivation for creating a sustainable company initially came as a result of what I was seeing as a product designer. You’re exposed to understanding just how many products we consume as a society, the waste produced during manufacturing, the ethical issues within production, and the complexity of material supply chains. I wanted to create a business that tackled each of these, buying directly from suppliers, minimizing waste through clever design, and creating products that are designed to last. I think if we are to solve the climate crisis then we need businesses to take this approach, but do it in a way that doesn’t compromise in design or functionality.
I was surprised when I discovered that something as strange and bizarre as Apple Leather existed? What’s the story behind discovering this unusual leather and what makes you choose to use it in your wallets compared to other vegan leathers?
I first came across Apple leather at a material exhibition in 2017. I then met the creator in London who had traveled from Italy where the material is made. He described to me the process of turning the leftover pomace from the fruit juice industry and turning it into this ecological material. I was amazed not only at the story but also at the quality and feel of the material, and the details you could get from it. It’s incredibly soft and unlike many other bio-based vegan types of leather can be embossed and also skived (the process of making the fabric thinner). This is incredibly important for high-end small accessories as you are able to add details and make sure that the product feels and functions perfectly.
Please tell us about how your apple leather material is made. Are there other interesting materials you use?
Apple leather is an Italian-made material created using the leftover pomace and peel from the fruit juice and compote industry. The fabric is created by first taking the recovered apple waste and reducing it to a powder. Once processed, it is sent to a factory located in Florence, where it is combined with polyurethane and coated onto a canvas. The result is a durable but soft fabric that is perfect for hardwearing small accessories.
One of the most unique aspects of using apple waste is that not only is it a completely renewable resource but it also It is from a natural waste stream. This up-cycling of a waste that would otherwise be thrown away, reduces the CO2 impact significantly compared to many other types of leather and faux leathers.
We also use recycled polyester lining in our vegan wallets and organic cotton lining in our vegan cardholder. More recently we proudly introduced a new premium microfibre ‘suede’ lining made from recycled polyester to our premium compact wallet. I feel like it really elevates the design further and creates a unique look.
What are you’re opinion on the current state of the leathercraft industry, its impact on the environment, and what you, and others are currently doing to help combat the issues?
There’s no doubt that leather is an incredible material, however, its impact on the planet can’t be ignored. According to the Sustainable Apparel Coalition’s Higg Materials Sustainability Index – which measures impact up to the point of fabrication – leathers have an impact of 176, compared to Polyurethane-based fabrics that have a score of 29.9. This is due to its high contribution to global warming, water use, and pollution. Leather also requires a considerable amount of chemicals (the process of tanning) to ensure that it doesn’t degrade during use.
There are better leather processes being developed continuously (chrome-free tanning, leather from regenerative farming, etc.) however the industry has a long way to go. At Oliver Co., we believe in the future of bio-materials as they have the capability of greatly reducing our impact whilst still having the same level of performance. This could include fabricating materials using organisms such as algae, bacteria, mushrooms, or yeast. Recently Adidas created their iconic Stan-smith sneaker from a leather-like material made from mushrooms – I think is a big signal of where the future of the industry is heading.
What’s your personal favorite wallet in your collection and what makes it special to you?
My personal favorite is our compact wallet. As with many people starting a business, I first designed a product that I personally desperately needed. With the reliance on credit cards as the main way of carrying money, I wanted to create an understated and clean design but with a multitude of features and pockets – all whilst remaining very slim. With a quick access pocket, pockets for folded cash, and receipts, it was about creating a vegan wallet that was suited to my life living in London. Since its first release, I have loved tweaking the design and trying to continuously improve on it.
What does the future hold for Oliver Co? Have you any new projects in the pipeline, do you plan to expand to other leather goods besides wallets?
This year we are really excited about expanding our range further. Consumers have many different preferences when it comes to functionality and style and so we have used our customer feedback to create a range that we hope appeals to a lot of people. We also have some larger accessories including a backpack and laptop case coming later this year which will see the introduction of some new technical recycled fabrics that we are really excited about.
Finally, we always like to ask this question, if you had to choose one other wallet to carry for the rest of your life (that isn’t your own) which one would it be?
Great question! From a design perspective, I think I would go for a Mont Blanc Cardholder. I love the subtlety in their design and attention to detail.
Do you have any discount codes or offers for any interested people reading this interview?
You can use the code ALLTHEWALLETS15 to receive 15% off your first purchase.