Inga Gubeka is the founder and creative director of luxury leather goods brand Inga Atelier. His store is in Hyde Park Corner, north of Joburg. Image: SIMPHIWE MBOKAZI.
JOHANNESBURG - Luxury  leather goods brand Inga Atelier has set itself a target to be fully internationally ready next year, so says its founder and creative director Inga Gubeka.

A renowned entrepreneur who has made a name for himself in the local and international design industry, Gubeka grew up in Ngqeleni in Eastern Cape and in Durban in KwaZulu-Natal.  He established the contemporary lifestyle brand last year, after leaving the wooden accessories brand Indalo Decor, following a fallout with his business partners over the creative direction the company should take.

Inga Atelier caters to the whims of the upper class by manufacturing tote, sling, laptop and duffel bags, wallets and purses and backpacks, among other items.  Gubeka says they also specialise in bespoke items and can customise items to the client’s specifications but within the design boundaries of Inga Atelier.

Inga Gubeka is the founder and creative director of luxury leather goods brand Inga Atelier. His store is in Hyde Park Corner, north of Joburg. Image: SIMPHIWE MBOKAZI.

“We are the first local leather goods brand to set up shop in Hyde Park Corner,” says Gubeka, sounding rather pleased with himself.  “The reason we set up in Hyde Park is that it’s the right market for our brand. My product has been very well received by the clientele. I knew from the very beginning that this is my market.”

Gubeka, who made the lists of both the Forbes Africa 30 Under 30, and the Forbes (USA) Top 5 accessories designers in Africa in 2016, describes his client as someone who is affluent, travels and appreciates the finer things in life.

“My clients enjoy good craftsmanship because luxury is often associated with craftsmanship and things like that.”

He is cagey to mention his clients by name, save to say they are powerful captains of industry and media personalities, among others.

Inga Atelier sources its leather from one of the biggest leather tanning companies in Ethiopia, says Gubeka, adding: “It’s the same company where some of the biggest international  luxury brands also source from.”

The young entrepreneur says he will attend a manufacturing summit in Ethiopia later this month, where he will be speaking on his experiences about African luxury and sourcing in Ethiopia.

“Guys from Gucci, Diesel, and H&M will also attend the summit because they have started manufacturing in Ethiopia. Look, Ethiopia is the new China of Africa,” says Gubeka, who made the prestigious list of the Mail & Guardian’s 200 Young South Africans, and was named the overall winner of the Glenfiddich Maverick campaign in 2015. 

“Ethiopia is the biggest when it comes to textiles right now. Top luxury brands from Europe are going to Ethiopia,” says Gubeka, who had a Glenfiddich single malt whisky worth R80 000 named after him and whose bottle he had designed.

Gubeka says he has always been fascinated about luxury and leather and explains: “I thought I should combine the two and come up with something that is very premium and luxurious.” 

Inga Atelier recently collaborated with Swedish luxury car manufacturer Volvo and are working on a long-term plan, and Gubeka says details will be revealed soon.

On top of Gubeka’s mind right now is the need to increase his company’s footprint. He says they were this month supposed to have opened another branch at Cape Town’s affluent V&A Waterfront, which attracts about 24 million visitors a year but could not because of other pressing commitments. He has now moved the deadline to December.

“We like the international clientele there, and the mall really likes our stuff. They want us in already. Remember, our brand defines African luxury,” says Gubeka, whose work has been featured on lifestyle television programme Top Billing.

Gubeka, whose dream is to turn Inga Atelier into one of Africa’s luxury brands, says they are working with an agent in France who will be tasked with pushing the brand in Europe.  He describes Shoe Dog by Nike founder Phil Knight as a well-written book that helped to change his life. “I have read it more than five times already and it talks about the hardships that you go through as an entrepreneur.” Another of his favourite is The Alchemist by Brazilian author Paulo Coelho.

When asked what his last thoughts are, Gubeka catches his breath and says: “All I can say is that the brand will be internationally ready by next year.”

Businessman Inga Gubeka is founder and creative director of luxury leather goods brand Inga Atelier in Johannesburg.