Don’t be afraid to change

Carl Friedrik is a leather goods brand fusing centennial Italian craftsmanship

Please introduce yourself and your startup Carl Friedrik​ ​to ​our readers! I’m Mattis and I’m the co-founder and designer at Carl Friedrik.
Carl Friedrik is a leather goods brand fusing centennial Italian craftsmanship with modern minimalistic aesthetics. We only use the finest materials and leathers on the market, and our products are handmade by our craftsman in Italy and Portugal. We provide our customers with elegance and functionality in order to accommodate the technological needs of the modern city professionals.

How did you get the idea to Carl Friedrik?
It all started with me (Mattis) and my brother Niklas trying (and failing) to find the right laptop case back in 2012; and the realisation that a great leather experience was becoming something of scarcity in the market. Many on the market at that time were proposing their goods at incredibly inflated prices, due to the high markups imposed on them along every step of the (sometimes untraceable) supply chains.

As a result, Niklas and I founded Carl Friedrik (Oppermann at that time) out of a personal need and desire to make products we and our close ones would love to buy, that we would be proud to wear and produce, and that would embody the concept of value for money, which is a core concept for our brand. We were looking for modern designs, natural and high quality materials, produced to a high standard. And, of course, we wanted to offer these products at attainable prices.

How difficult was the start and what challenges you had to overcome?
The major challenges we had to face along the way mostly concerned the sourcing for high quality, beautifully crafted and sustainable leather. It took us a rather long time to be able to find suppliers that would live up to our standards of excellence. We spent more than a year on the constant quest for impeccable materials and superb craftsmanship expertise to finally shape the product we had been dreaming of. And even nowadays, the pursuit for best quality is an ongoing iterative process which is definitely one of our biggest challenges and, at the same time, greatest rewards.

Our signature quality has also played a pivotal role allowing us to establish our brand: spreading the word about our new business, succeeding in the saturated industry of luxury fashion, competing with the biggest players in the market, and more, have been among the most difficult tasks we had to confront. Quality was the spark that had us shining among the crowd, what really won over the hearts and minds of our customers.

Who is your target audience?
We have two core audiences. The first being professionals from the service sector and living in urban areas, mostly wearing a suit to work and consistently focussing on high quality and refined materials. The customer belonging to this first target group often buys our smooth leather briefcases, which are designed to suit more formal contexts.
The latter target group is the one of the creative professional who usually works in startups, media, architecture and advertising. For them, Carl Friedrik means clean design and functionality. This is why we design our products to perform at best in every context: fitted pockets and durable linings are just among the numerous examples of features that make our products incredibly functional, other than elegantly crafted.

What is the USP of your startup?
At Carl Friedrik we strive for achieving the best price-to-quality ratio in everything we make. We provide our customers with exquisite products at affordable pricing, and we do this by avoiding middlemen and various mark-up stages, directly overseeing our whole supply chain, being in control of everything of every component that goes into our products. The price on our products is dictated by the quality of our leathers and the experience of our manufacturers, and the value we provide for money has no comparison in the industry.

We aim to work our sublime materials into minimalistic masterpieces characterised by clean design without big logos and excessive branding. We want to be recognized by our unique quality, rather than our name printed on our products. We source premium materials from the leading suppliers in Europe, and we provide our customers with a tailor-made customer service and lifetime warranty on all of our products. We believe in what we do, and we trust that our products are durable for a lifetime: if, however, bad luck gets in the way, we will take care of everything, for free.

Can you describe a typical workday of you?
Our days are literally never one like the other. We spend a lot of time traveling from London to Italy and Portugal to personally manage and control the production of our accessories. We meet with our suppliers on a monthly basis in order to constantly improve production along the way. Our feedback-fueled improvement system allows us to continually study the needs of our customers and satisfy their preferences. This way, we are always able fulfill their expectations by applying monthly changes in production to accommodate the feedback we receive on every single of our orders.

On the other hand, when we are in London, we work along with our management team to organize our operations, marketing and customer service functions in order to satisfy the huge demand that we have across Europe, and around the world.

Where do you see yourself and your startup ​Carl Friedrik ​ in five years?
Our current customer base mainly consists of a male audience, so the focus this year is to open to women’s market, thus being able to provide luxury accessories for both. We are already working on our women collection, which is at this time featuring newly launched the Ashby Tote, and the Penton Briefcase, other than our uni-sex tech cases.

One of our goals is also to open new pop-up stores across Europe and US. We have had a pop-up store at the Royal Exchange of London over the past year, and we have received a remarkable response from our customers, who have truly loved the possibility to shop from us in store. We would welcome the opportunity to re-propose the concept in more cities, and to try innovative ideas to surprise our customers and provide them with the ultimate luxury shopping experience.

At last, we are planning very interesting and promising collaborations for the future. We would love to partner with brands that share our passion for the best quality at attainable prices. We are already working to make this dream become reality in the next quarters.

What 3 tips would you give other Start-up founders on the way?

● Think ​inside​ the box:

When everybody in the industry is focussing on marketing, publicity, exposure, we went back to the real meaning of luxury: we provided our customers with incomparable quality, customized service, attention for details, a transparent and sustainable supply chain and minimalistic, graceful aesthetics. What might have been taken for granted by many, is the reason why our customers fell in love our products and brand. We did what our competitors had forgotten, and we took it to the next level.

● Don’t be afraid to change:

From 2012 to 2014, Carl Friedrik was focussing on wholesale retail, being present in major luxury department stores in London and across Europe, distributing our products to retailers. In 2014 we realized the difficult traceability of such business model. We took a chance and we decided to cancel all our wholesale orders and get back to the essentials, by distributing our whole line directly to our customers, cutting out all middlemen. Ever since, business has never been better.

● At last, a little cliche’ which is actually the most important tip we can give you:Do something you love

Follow your passions, as nothing will make others believe in you as much as realizing that what you are doing something you love. We try our best to share our story with our customers and followers, because we truly want to show them the passion and constant effort tha Niklas, the team and myself are putting in everything we do. We are incredibly in love with our products, and we are proud of the value we are providing to our customers every single day.

More information you will find here

Thank you Markus Lukasson for the Interview

Statements of the author and the interviewee do not necessarily represent the editors and the publisher opinion again.

Sabine Elsässer

Sabine Elsässer is founder and chief editor of the StartupValleyNews Magazine. She started her career at several international direct sale companys. Since 2007 she works main time as a journalist. While that time she learned more about the Startup Scene, what made her start her own Startup Magazine the StartupValleyNews.

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