Inga Gubeka started his luxury leather goods brand, Inga Atelier, with a mission of being recognized internationally as one of the best African-made luxury goods brands. Almost every business thrives when it fills a market gap, and Gubeka is making a name for himself by satisfying his niche clientele with his leather products.
“I realized there’s a gap in the market for luxury leather goods, especially ones that are locally-made,” Gubeka told Business Insider.
The young designer began his journey as a different type of designer. He was into interior design. He graduated with a degree in interior design from the Durban University of Technology.
Then just a little boy from the village of Engqeleni in the Eastern Cape, with nothing but dreams of sharing his creativity with the world, he founded his first company Indalo Décor in 2013. The company was into making handcrafted wooden and leather bags clutches, backpacks, and accessories as well as interior decorating items such as lighting solutions and clocks.
At age 28, Gubeka became the youngest South African to have a whiskey named after him after he designed the bottle. Glenfiddich named a premium single malt whisky after him in 2015.
Indalo Décor was thriving to the point where Gubeka was one of four South Africans to be featured in Forbes 30 under 30 in 2016. However, Gubeka at some point felt he was doing more administrative work than designing. The differences between him and his partners became apparent and that led to his resignation and the birth of his luxury goods brand, Inga Atelier, with his brick-and-mortar location in Cape Town.
The focus of his lifestyle brand is to create luxury leather accessories. Customers can personalize their orders at no extra cost.
The bags have gained global grounds and doing extremely well in his home country, South Africa, as well. He speaks of his brand “as a fusion of African luxury and Scandinavian design elements, with specifics on clean lines, attention to detail and simplicity.”
As a first-generation entrepreneur, Gubeka believes in excellence. The leather he uses is mostly sourced from Ethiopia and some South African vendors. It takes nearly five hours to create a single bag. He oversees the designing and cutting. Then his highly qualified and trained team hand stitches and assembles the bags. The stitching is especially a slow process because “everything has to be accurate”.
In February 2019, he sold out his entire range of luxury leather bags after tweeting about his company. “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 distributed 120 leather bags to all 120 diplomats including South African president Cyril Ramaphosa.
He believes there is a market for his products and being a Black African will not stop him from thriving in his chosen line of work. He rightfully said, “the right products don’t know color.”
“The world is my oyster, our time is now as black people and we have arrived,” he told GQ.