It was while trying to juggle kids, work, travel and a healthy lifestyle that Sue Fuller realized, like most women, she didn’t need another bag in her life. She needed a better bag. When she couldn’t find one already on the market, she set out to make must-have bags herself; establishing her own fashion brand: Oliver Thomas. These contemporary, quilted bags include cross-bodies, totes, duffels and backpacks.
The Oliver Thomas brand goes against everything the fashion industry stands for; creating bags that are rule breaking, highly functional and undeniably cool. Even so, Sue Fuller will be the first to tell you that her essential bags are designed to carry your stuff, not your self-worth. This is exactly the quirky and authentic outlook on which Oliver Thomas was founded.
Here at Peach, we made it our mission to create products and opportunities that empower women in the same way that Oliver Thomas has with their must-have bags. As a result, we couldn’t be more thrilled to announce Sue Fuller as our featured entrepreneur for the fall 2018 London Calling collection.
We sat down with this innovator, disrupter and true girl-boss to get you all the details on her journey into entrepreneurship and how she’s been able to build the Oliver Thomas brand.
How did you get the idea for creating a line of nylon bags?
“Prior to starting Oliver Thomas, I was spending 70% of my time on a plane as an executive at a company, being a mother of two teenage boys and a “fur-baby” (the real-life Oliver Thomas and the company co-founder) and trying to stay fit going to the gym had me carrying 3-4 bags at a time, daily. All these bags were heavy, didn’t function well and my back and shoulders hurt from trying to juggle them. It was then that the idea was born! No one needs just another bag…but EVERYONE needs a bag that can go from day to night and week to weekend without having to carry multiple heavy bags. This is exactly what Oliver Thomas was going to solve. We set out to eliminate the multi-bag syndrome by offering must-have bags and accessories that are: lightweight, machine washable, water resistant, vegan, incorporate RFID Blocking Technology, and the ultimate functionality with tons of compartments.
We are fortunate that we live in an era where we can quickly and easily interact directly with the consumer, learn from them and build products for how they are actually living today.”
What did you aspire to be when you were younger and how has your upbringing played a role in your decision to become an entrepreneur?
“I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur at a very young age. I tell everyone that everything I learned about being an entrepreneur I learned from growing up in a large family with six siblings. Unlike most children growing up, I didn’t want a doll or a bike for my birthday, I wanted a cash register. As soon as I blew out my birthday candles, I had the register set up on my parents’ pool table in their basement and I was re-selling my brothers and sisters their own clothes with patches sewn on them that I purchased at a local dime store. All of my siblings played a role in the ‘department store’ we created on my parents’ pool table. Two brothers and a sister helped merchandise the ‘store’, another brother was in charge of food and beverage management by creating ‘Happy Meals’ with curated snacks from my parents’ pantry with chips and Tootsie Rolls and Dr. Pibb soda. Another sister had the job of guerrilla marketing by riding around on her pink Huffy bike with the streamers. We put cards with clothespins in the spokes of her bike to drum up attention to our ‘department store’. We were always starting businesses in our household and our parents did a great job of encouraging our ingenuity.”
What was the best piece of advice you were given when you started out creating your bags?
“The best piece of advice I have received is from my parents who would always say to us, ‘at the end of the day, everything comes down to relationships.’ I’ve been fortunate to have developed incredible relationships and friendships throughout my personal and professional career. How I ended up at Peach was through an incredible relationship and friendship I developed with your Head of Design, Daniela Bascunan over 15 years ago! It’s so wonderful to have that type of connection with someone. Read about Daniela here.
The best advice I received while starting Oliver Thomas is from someone who quoted Phil Knight who said, ‘When you are an entrepreneur, every day is chaos!’ It’s so true and so much fun! We laugh every day at how much we are learning and how much we have yet to learn.”
Name a fear or professional challenge that keeps you up at night?
“I wouldn’t say that I have a fear. I always tell everyone that I never want to do anything to disappoint them. It is very humbling to have people believe, invest and cheer for you. I want to make sure I am doing everything I can to continue to grow personally and professionally while I am privileged to be on this incredible journey.”
The Oliver Thomas brand has a very distinct and unique outlook and voice: what motivates you to not conform to the expectations of the fashion industry?
“My children have been a big motivator to drive a brand that is as authentic and real as possible. In the era of social media, where everything looks so perfect, I wanted to develop something that is fun, funny, casual and real. We try to reflect this in our headlines: ‘Our bags carry stuff, not self-worth’ or ‘This bag will not make you fabulous, especially if you are miserable to begin with.’ We only make bags, and we can admit it!”
Where do you hope to see the Oliver Thomas brand in the next five years? What is the next milestone you’re hoping to hit with these must-have bags?
“The goal is to continue to connect people and to help solve everyday problems for people in a smart, casual, real and witty way. I hope to keep hustling, learning and having fun!” Check out this season’s featured entrepreneur: Oliver Thomas.
Check out our fall 2018 collection: London Calling.