I love a gorgeous designer handbag as much as the next person, but having to spend what equates to a month’s rent on one? Not so much. So when I heard about Walker + Olson, a brand new handbag line committed to making luxury leather bags more accessible, I was immediately intrigued.
Turns out the brand’s founder, Kevin Walker, has deep roots in the fashion industry; he used to work at Calvin Klein. He saw firsthand the mark-up most brands charged when selling leather bags and decided it was time for change. With Walker + Olson, he’s introducing a direct to consumer model that allows women like you and me to shop luxe Italian leather handbags for a fraction of what most designers charge. Pretty sweet, right?!
Get to know Kevin and the story behind Walker + Olson below:
SHEfinds: How is Walker + Olson is disrupting the luxury handbag industry?
Kevin Walker: walker+olson is going to shake up and disrupt the handbag industry because we focus on top of line design and use old school Artisan craftsmanship in Italy to make sure quality is not compromised and with a new business model that allows us to eliminate all the middlemen in the supply chain and deliver our product direct-to-consumer at a fair price. We are using the old school design & quality methods while applying the latest software and technology to deliver an exceptional product to our customers. Let’s be honest, walker+olson could could sell our handbags to all the luxury high-end department stores and charge $600 – $3,000 per bag but why? I want every woman to be able to afford a luxury handbag without the luxury price.
SF: What’s your background? Have you alway been into handbags?
KW: I went to school to study International Business & Economics with a minor in Japanese and received my MBA in Finance. I was fortunate enough to work oversees for a couple of years and traveled the world learning all the ins-and-outs of the leather operations business from logistics to customer service. Over the years I have always had a passion for the fashion industry, in particular handbags and shoes because of the design aspect and there is two things that make a woman’s outfit, a great pair of shoes and beautiful handbag. I was fortunate enough to work for one of the most recognizable brands in the world Calvin Klein as their CFO & COO for one of their licensees. While there besides the operations side, I learned every aspect of the design process and this is when I saw the mark-ups that took place especially in the handbag segment. I learned quickly that these extreme mark-ups happen across all the luxury brands around the world. I knew I could come up with a business model that let’s women have that same expensive handbag from the department store for much less.
SF: How are you able to offer luxury bags at such a compelling price point?
KW: We are able to offer high quality luxury handbags by first, cutting out all the layers of middlemen and selling direct-to-consumer. Second, with our software and logistical planning we are able to take another layer of cost out while being more efficient than all the well established luxury brands. By implementing these very important steps and leaving in the two most important qualities of a handbag, design and quality. Every women deserves a Luxury handbag without the Luxury price!
SF: What challenges have you run into trying to launch Walker + Olson?
KW: The biggest challenge was to find the right factory in Italy that understood my business model and what I wanted to accomplish. Italy is made up of many smaller family run factories but are use to the old way of producing for the department store business. After interviewing and meeting with almost 20 factory owners, I finally found the factory that understood my vision to deliver high quality handbags and deliver them directly to every customers front door. In this process I was extremely fortunate that their top Artisan turned out to be Paolo who came out of retirement to help train their up and coming Artisans. Paolo helped build one of the biggest brands in the world, Salvatore Ferragamo for more 20+ years. He is now in charge of walker+olson’s quality process.
SF: What’s the one standout style women should be on the lookout for?
KW: I think women are looking for that style from a brand that’s unique, minimal and the feel of luxury at the same time. At walker+olson we design our handbags with unique high-end style hardware that is unique and adds that finishing touch to each handbag. We try to create our handbags with style and practicality in mind from our Savannah crossbody to our hobo bag, The “W”.
SF: Where do you see Walker + Olson in 5 years?
KW: In 5 years I hope to grow the brand beyond the US and be known as the brand that continues to produces Luxury handbags without the Luxury price.
SF: If you weren’t running Walker + Olson what would you be doing?
KW: This is one to ponder… If I weren’t running walker+olson, I would probably be creating a similar company for women’s high-end shoes without the high-en price tag.
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[Photo: Walker + Olson]