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Lori Samuels is the founder of OneOddBird, a unique women’s accessories brand that recently relocated to St. Louis from San Marino, California. Samuels is thrilled to be back in her hometown and is looking forward to growing her vibrant brand in the heart of the Midwest.
OneOddBird designs luxurious accessories that not only look great but are highly functional. In addition, Samuels donates a portion of every sale to The Help Group and UCLA Autism Research Alliance.
When I met with Samuels and her designer, Dina Right, at their Clayton studio located in a bustling business district of St. Louis, I felt inspired by the brilliant colors surrounding me and excited to hear the story of OneOddBird unfold.
How OneOddBird Started
Prior to launching her own line, Lori had an accessory boutique in San Marino, CA. The store opened as a result of a trip to Venice in 2011 where her son was studying for the summer. It was there that she saw a jewelry line that was the initial brand for and reason she launched Colori.
On a subsequent trip back to Venice in early 2013 that she came upon the second line (leather accessories) for her store. From thereon, Samuels started adding more lines from Europe: almost all of which were small, unknown and unavailable in the US. She found designers either from her own travels or through suggestions from customers, some of whom ultimately became some of her best buying scouts.
OneOddBird was launched a few years after the Colori store had opened. The new brand was the result of not being able to find a brand that met the desires of her customers and the ethos of her store.
Specifically, Samuels found that it was easy to find very well made leather items, but only in very limited colors – mostly browns and blacks. Similarly, although It wasn’t that challenging to find colorful brands, they often were not produced at the quality level that she and her customers demanded.
So, OneOddBird was developed to combine the two – very well made leather accessories in vibrant, fun and unique colors. Eventually, Samuels made the tough decision to close the boutique to focus entirely on the booming OneOddBird brand.
Building a Socially Responsible Fashion Brand
OneOddBird is one a growing number of socially responsible fashion companies, such as Everlane, Toms, and Patagonia, that are molding the future of the fashion industry around causes. In 2015, Nielsen reported that 66% of consumers globally are willing to spend more on a product if it comes from a sustainable brand.
“I had quite a few friends who have a child or someone close to them who was on the Autism spectrum. We chose to partner with the UCLA Autism Research Alliance because it has a broad application and is dedicated to enhancing and expanding clinical research in the education and treatment of those with autism spectrum disorder.”
The brand name, OneOddBird, is unique and the odd little bird icon is a stylized depiction of the Hoopoe, a distinctly colorful bird found across Afro-Eurasia.
“The reason we chose the Hoopoe bird was very deliberate…” Samuels explained, “the unusual patterns and unexpected color. However, the primary appeal was that the hoopoe did not fly in flocks, but rather alone or or in pairs. Much like the hoopoe, our line appeals to those who are not focused on buying the big name brands and doing what everyone else is doing. OneOddBird appeals to those who appreciate color, function, and design but also want to “stand out from the flock”
On building her brand from the ground up Samuels commented, “having the [brick-and-mortar] store helped [us] go in slowly and build the brand based on customer feedback.”
Samuels knew she had a product that people actually wanted to buy when she introduced the first product she designed herself – a $29 leather keychain – at her boutique, which was displayed next to her front register. She sold out 250 keychains in six weeks.
“Building a brand is hard. We are big believers in testing the concept.”
Ethical Fashion on a Budget
As I studied the OneOddBird leather wallets, I couldn’t help but admire some of the details in the products that make them unique and everyday luxury. The quality of the stitching on the leather wallets really stood out since the seams cross the bright leather at clean, interesting geometric angles that make you feel like you’re truly getting a quality product that will last for years to come. With OneOddBird prices ranging from $6 to $116, this brand is definitely something to feel good about.
Samuels manufactures all of her products in India and China where she has had a wonderful experience with communication and quality assurance. As a co-owner myself of MakersValley, a manufacturing platform with over 100 Italian manufacturers and artisans, I know first-hand how important it is to have good communication with your factory partner and checking that your products are made well overseas.
OneOddBird is built for women by women. They are a small but strong team which includes Right, who masterfully designs the product and the prints on the wallets and pouches, such as the Large Happy Tails Pouch & Makeup Bag for dog lovers, that are both stylish and uplifting.
Aside from building a successful fashion brand, Samuels shared some advice for all budding entrepreneurs.
“The most valuable lesson is the importance of and openness to changing course or pivoting. Planning, forecasting and strategizing are all necessary but so is the willingness to remain flexible and adjust for not just changes, but also the completely unexpected. Some great ideas can come as the result of having to alter your course in light of the unanticipated.”
In the rapidly, evolving fashion industry, being able to pivot is critical. You have to be flexible in business and sometimes you have a defined path you feel you must go down, but you must understand that you can pivot too – people, trends and vendors come and go.
What is a socially responsible fashion brand you will be supporting over the holidays and what cause do they stand behind? Tell us on social media.