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Brothers Mattis and Niklas Oppermann are in the thick of relaunching their leather goods brand, Oppermann London, when we call them on a Monday in September. Niklas, who is a few minutes late to our conversation, has just been on the phone with their manufacturers, making sure everything—the raw materials, the hardware, the order size, the factories—is ready to go for production this season. The two of them run the label themselves out of a room in their London flat, where Mattis has been handling most of their marketing and Niklas has been overseeing production. Together, they design their pared down products. “I read somewhere that unless your business physically can’t fit people in the apartment, you shouldn’t move out,” Niklas says. “I guess we’re sticking by that.”
The Oppermann brothers launched their first collection in 2012, with showings at London Collections: Men and Pitti Uomo. Now, they’ re transitioning to an online-only business model, with a greater focus on the quality of their product. With the expert advice of friends in the industry, they’ve hunted down the best tanneries in Tuscany and the most reputable factories around Naples to produce the kind of handmade products they want to sell. “But the last part,” Mattis admits, “is always trial and error.” The results so far are promising: to promote these big changes to their brand, the Oppermanns launched an ambitious £20,000 Kickstarter campaign that, by the time it closed just three days after we spoke, had exceeded its goal by almost 50%.
DESIGNERS: Mattis & Niklas Oppermann
BASED IN: London
TRADEMARKS: Niklas: I would say that at the core of our design values is the “less is more” approach. We like to design everything simply and free of clutter. And we use the best raw materials and components we can find in combination with that minimalism. We want the materials to be the ones speaking for themselves.
Mattis: Along with a very minimalist, clean design, many of the products are also very geometric in the sense that they’re very square, with slightly rounded edges. Our brand signature is this blade shape that’s also very much based on geometric proportions.
ORIGIN STORY: Mattis: Officially, we launched the brand in 2012. That’s when we started selling products. But we first got the idea back in 2010. The idea emerged during Christmas, when my brother was giving me a laptop holder as a present, and I didn’t really like it. It was not really what I had had in mind. First of all, it was purple. [laughs] What I was looking for was something that was really clean and understated. So we took the case and returned it and we went around—we were in Germany at the time—and we went around to all the stores, out of our price range, to everything really, and we just couldn’t find what we were looking for. So we just started thinking, what would it look like if we designed something ourselves? Because we’d found this gap in the market in terms of price range and quality, and design, of course. So we started thinking about it, and then a couple of years later we established relationships with the manufacturers we used at the time, and in 2012 we launched our first collection.
BY DESIGN: Mattis: I studied in a joint course between two universities. The one course was design—product, human-focused industrial design—and at the other university I studied engineering. So that was a pretty good mixture from the start to get an understanding of how products are built, what they should look like, and how they should function. I don’t have a fashion background, but we’ve been around good design our whole lives. We grew up in Sweden, so being around good design—it’s always been there. [Niklas] worked in fashion retail for some time, and he’s always been very interested in fashion in general, but he went on to study business. That’s been a good mixture for us, too.
MEN & MAN BAGS: Niklas: One thing that we did notice is that in Sweden, we grow up and people, including men, are very stylish compared to the rest of the world. So we grew up in a place where men’s fashion really was a big thing, and that’s how we got to be interested in it. Then we came to the UK, there are obviously a lot of fashionable people, but we did realize that here, there’s a lot more press about the fact that men are starting to pay more attention to menswear. In terms of leather goods and bags, last fall there were a lot of articles about “the man bag,” as they call it here in England. It’s still a weird thing for men to carry bags that are not strictly professional briefcases. Everything else is a “man purse.” We thought that was interesting, and that, I guess, is a clear sign of men starting to actually care about their accessories—it doesn’t have to be the traditional English briefcase. It was pretty nice that all of these articles came out at the time that we were trying to make our mark.
ENGLISH ACCENTS: Mattis: We both moved here to study. After that, we got stuck. [laughs]
Niklas: We thought about, “Where are we? Are we Opperman Stockholm?”—for example. That was way in the beginning. Because we wanted to keep London in the name and the design as well, it became very natural to stay here. In the Goswell bag, for example, there’s this zipper extension that closes with a sort of pin stud, which we’d seen in traditional English briefcases. It’s a very classic thing to do on a very modern portfolio like that. So there are small details like that. And also the sort of leather we use is very English—a lot of English products look like that as well. Then in some products we have orange lining or red lining, which is sort of an inspiration from this very classic, elegant Englishman who’s wearing red socks or purple socks or something. So these are the parallels that we think about to keep the English touch.
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