Inga Gubeka, the man honoured as the “Glenfiddich Maverick”
JOHANNESBURG - Young entrepreneur Inga Gubeka bobs his head each time he listens to award-winning songstress Zamajobe song about a magical place.
The song, Indawo Yami, tells of liberties abound in a world where there are no conformities.
It speaks to him as someone who has broken the mould in the manufacturing of contemporary lifestyle accessories, which has been an exclusive preserve of a handful minority in the country. And his creations have been endorsed by the likes of Alek Wek, a famous South Sudanese-British supermodel and designer.
Gubeka, who lives in Johannesburg, recently resigned as a shareholder of Indalo Décor which he established when he was still based in Cape Town in December 2013, to focus on his budding his own enterprise, Inga Atelier.
He had catapulted Indalo Décor onto the national and international stage through using wood and leather to create tote, sling and clutch bags, iPad cases, backpacks, lamps and clocks.
This month, Gubeka will be one of the main exhibitors at the Sanlam Handmade Contemporary Fair in Johannesburg. But such has been Gubeka's life. Last year he became the first African to have a premium single malt whisky named after him.
This after Glenfiddich unveiled a bottle that Gubeka had designed, and had named after him, worth R80 000. He was subsequently honoured as the “Glenfiddich Maverick”, an accomplishment he does not take lightly in his design career.
In an interview with Business Report this week, the entrepreneur who grew up at Ngqeleni in the former Transkei, in Eastern Cape, speaks passionately about the Inga Atelier brand.
He describes it in simple terms saying it “fashionably fuses technology with wooden and leather accessories”. The brand manufactures clutch bags, and wooden and leather cellphone covers that charge phones wirelessly, and a laptop bag that charges a notebook.
“Some of the commercial services we offer include packaging, brand commissions, creative direction and luxury bespoke corporate gifting,” said Gubeka, who formed the brand earlier this year and currently serves as its creative director and chief executive.
Inga Atelier’s parent company is Superior Brands Africa (SBA) which trades as Inga Atelier. The holding company is the brainchild of Gubeka’s wife Michelle and “good friend” Mxolisi Nene, “so it’s 100 percent owned by black youth”.
Gubeka says SBA models itself after the likes of popular multinational luxury goods conglomerates LVMH and Kering. “We aim being the pioneers of the fashion tech brands in South Africa and creative convenience for our consumers,” he says.
Inga Atelier has entered into a collaboration with leading creative agency Grid, which counts among its clients KFC, FNB, Liberty and MTN, to design “some really cool concepts for them”.
“This is a big milestone for us because we are now doing some projects for some of the big brands in the country,” said Gubeka, who was appointed as a director of SBA, after resigning from Indalo Décor. He explains that the decision to part ways with Indalo was “a difficult one”, as his former business partners had different ideas about the “strategic direction of the company. This of course would affect the decision making process over the capital allocation to projects”.
However, Gubeka is emphatic that “this new chapter of my journey with Inga Atelier at SBA is set to continue the creative charm and innovation that popularised my designs”.
He guardedly reveals that together with Grid there was some interest from international clients that they would like to pursue.
But these growth projects rely on a successful capital raising campaign. “Indeed as a director at SBA, we're excited and proud of the business we're building and look forward to achieving our milestones of housing the best our continent has to offer the luxury market worldwide.”
With all his busy schedule and upcoming projects, Gubeka blows off steam by listening to some really good music. The creative counts Zamajobe’s Ndawo Yami, which means my space, as his favourite song because, “It really puts me in my own creative space where I’m able to do magic”.
- BUSINESS REPORT