Founded by brothers, Niklas and Mattis Oppermann, Carl Friedrik is known for its luxury travel goods — there’s slick and robust luggage, cool backpacks and other handy accessories, cue passport covers, watch cases, and more. Crafted using high-quality materials (from lightweight polycarbonate for the hard luggage to Italian Vachetta leather for the weekend bags), pieces are made to a considered design, tailored for all of those who are on the go, making the collection as stylish as it is practical. Having just launched the new Rover line, Niklas tells us more about how the company came about with his brother, the key pillars of their business, and how they’d like Carl Friedrik to evolve.
How did the business come about?
The inception story is quite traditional in the sense that we essentially spotted a gap in the market. It was my brother and co-founder Mattis’ birthday and I wanted to gift him a high-quality leather laptop case. I was looking for something that combined traditional craftsmanship with an understated look, and also offered good value for money.
Needless to say, I just couldn’t find the right piece. With my experience in business and Mattis’ background in product design, we felt we had the right qualities to produce something better. Carl Friedrik [formerly Oppermann London] was born shortly after.
What are the brand pillars?
We have four brand pillars:
- Intelligent Design is about creating products that are functional and a joy to use, which helps our customers to live smarter.
- Quality & Craftsmanship captures our commitment to fine materials and workmanship. This leads to accessories that can withstand the demands of modern living and truly last a lifetime.
- Instilling Confidence reflects our belief that for customers to achieve their best, they need to believe in and feel good about themselves. Carl Friedrik inspires confidence through understated, premium products that customers are proud to own. This ethos of confidence extends beyond products to both our service and brand identity.
- Luxury reimagined captures our unique take on how to operate in the luxury goods sphere. We believe the industry is largely out of sync with the values of today’s consumers. We better serve customers by offering trial programs and a lifetime warranty, rejecting seasonal fashion, promoting supply-chain transparency, and using sustainable materials.
The brand is celebrating 10 years, how are you marking it?
To mark the occasion, we are launching our first collection of soft bags. It represents a new creative direction for Carl Friedrik. The premium nubuck leather we are working with makes for soft and unstructured silhouettes that contrast with our best-selling Palissy collection, which celebrates rigidity and sleekness.
The upcoming range has a slightly more relaxed feel to it, yet the velvety nubuck is still very luxurious. With two backpacks, a garment weekend bag, a gym bag, and a tote, there is a bag for every type of modern traveler, from digital nomads to upmarket jet setters.
Tell us about the production process.
Often the production process starts with customers. We get a lot of great feedback from our community on what we should release next.
We begin by drafting initial sketches and designs that are sent to the factory for sampling. We go through several iterations until we are fully happy with the look and use.
We simulate a lifetime of product use in our testing process. For luggage, there are specific machines to simulate the products being on the luggage band, rolling over cobblestone, smashing against pavements and we also freeze the product to simulate the cold temperatures in the aircraft hold. Then there are drop tests on wheels and corners, as well as durability tests on the trolley system. As we offer a lifetime guarantee on all products, we need to ensure they are fit for a lifetime’s worth of use before releasing them to the market.
For leather goods, we do tests on leather durability, handle strengths, zipper strengths, etc. But also, down to the smaller details such as checking the thickness of the plating of our hardware down to specified microns.
Our signature Vachetta leather comes from a long-standing partner tannery in Tuscany, Artigiano del Cuoio. The leather is produced using the ancient technique of vegetable tanning. This method utilizes natural vegetable tannins — found in tree bark, leaves, and roots — to turn animal hides into leather. Master artisans spend a lifetime perfecting their tannin blends, drawing on knowledge passed down through generations. The result is luxurious, long-lasting, and biodegradable leather.
The production process doesn’t stop when we release a new product. We believe in Kaizen (‘continuous improvement’), constantly making adjustments based on customer feedback. If something breaks, we not only fix it for the customer but also incorporate a fix in the next iteration. For example, while our suitcase may look similar to when we first launched, we have changed virtually every single aspect (used different shell materials, internal components, layout, handles, etc.).
What’s the Creator’s Club, and how did it materialize?
The Creator’s Club is a unique customer initiative that came about because we wanted to involve our community even further in the product development process. It is essentially a beta program for luxury, physical products.
Customers were invited to test exclusive prototypes from the forthcoming collection. Their feedback will then be used to refine the final designs. We asked for insights on everything from the aesthetic and functionality of the products to the durability and quality of materials used.
To thank customers for their involvement, we offered a selection of benefits, such as a lifetime discount on all products in the final collection and the chance to go ‘behind the scenes with our co-founder and designer.
The underlying idea is to challenge standard industry practice by releasing a customer-led collection of luxury products.
What are the long-term goals for the brand?
Our goal for the future is to be the definitive choice for professionals looking for a modern travel brand with traditional quality.
The next few years will see us significantly expand our product offering. The plan is to diversify our range of accessories so that we can satisfy the demands of professionals in more areas of their lives.
In spite of global trends, luggage has become an increasingly important product category for us in recent times. Luggage sales were up 69% in 2021 and the current forecast for 2022 is for this to be eclipsed. So, we plan to really home in on travel goods for the foreseeable future.
We are also acutely aware of the socio-environmental issues facing the planet. We aim to be a brand at the forefront of sustainability and material development. In that regard, we are developing a line of sustainable vegan leather accessories. This will allow us to meet the rapidly growing demand for high-quality vegan leather goods.