Inga Gubeka launched her luxury leather goods brand, Inga Atelier, with a mission to be internationally recognized as one of the best brands of African-made luxury goods. Almost all businesses thrive when they fill a void in the market, and Gubeka is making a name for itself by satisfying its niche customers with its leather products.
“I realized there was a gap in the market for luxury leather goods, especially those that are made locally,” Gubeka told Business Insider.
The young designer started his journey as a different designer. He was in interior design. He graduated in Interior Design from Durban University of Technology.
So a very young boy from the village of Engqeleni in the Eastern Cape, dreaming only of sharing his creativity with the world, he founded his first company Indalo Décor in 2013. The company was dedicated to the artisanal manufacture of wooden bags and leather, clutch bags, backpacks, and accessories as well as home decor items such as lighting solutions and clocks.
At 28, Gubeka became the youngest South African to carry a whiskey in his name after designing the bottle. Glenfiddich named a premium single malt whiskey in his honor in 2015.
Indalo Décor was thriving to the point that Gubeka was one of four South Africans to feature in Forbes 30 under 30 in 2016. However, Gubeka felt at one point that he was doing more administrative work than design. The differences between him and his partners became evident and this led to his resignation and the birth of his luxury goods brand, Inga Atelier, with its brick and mortar location in Cape Town.
The goal of his lifestyle brand is to create luxury leather accessories. Customers can customize their orders at no additional cost.
The bags have gained ground around the world and are doing very well in his home country of South Africa as well. He speaks of his brand “as a fusion of African luxury and Scandinavian design elements, with specificities on clean lines, attention to detail and simplicity”.
As a first generation entrepreneur, Gubeka believes in excellence. The leather he uses comes mainly from Ethiopia and some South African suppliers. It takes almost five hours to create a single bag. He oversees the design and the cut. Then his highly skilled and trained team sews and assembles the bags by hand. Sewing is mostly a slow process because “everything has to be precise”.
In February 2019, he sold his entire line of luxury leather bags after tweeting about his business. “The sales have been ridiculously crazy,” he said at the time.
The Durban-raised designer recently had the opportunity to speak at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where he handed out 120 leather bags to 120 diplomats, including South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.
He believes that there is a market for his products and that being Negro African will not prevent him from thriving in his chosen field. He rightly said: “good products don’t know color”.
“The world is my oyster, our time is now black and we have arrived,” he told GQ.