When local entrepreneur Inga Gubeka envisioned what now has become an international brand – Inga Atelier – he imagined a luxury brand that was sophisticated, innovative and fashion forward.
With his range of handbags that celebrate Africa’s diversity, Gubeka, who started from humble beginnings in the Eastern Cape, has big dreams for his business.
He did not go straight into fashion design.
“I studied industrial design, but I dropped out, which was a very good decision for me to take. I realised that there was nothing more I could learn,” Gubeka said.
“After I dropped out, I tried running a magazine, which failed. I then opened a furniture design business which was a success, gaining me name and propelling me further in the design scene.”
He said after falling out with his business partner because they did not agree on the direction of the company, he launched Inga Atelier in 2018.
Since then, he has collaborated with upmarket bag design shop Lorenzi in Sandton, Johannesburg, which he supplies with handbags.
He manufactures his bags in a factory in the city which he co-owns.
“Our focus is luxury. Our bags are distinctive, and our aesthetics are very simple, minimal and high-end.”
Gubeka said his business almost shut down due to Covid-19 outbreak, but an unexpected spike in online sales quickly revived the brand.
“Due to the lockdown, we saw a sharper increase in online sales than we’ve ever seen before,” he said.
“It was a blessing in disguise, because I also learned that we need to adapt to the changes as a businessperson.”
His believes his biggest achievement was when he was commissioned by ABSA to design bags for their delegation going to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in 2019, where he was also a guest speaker.
“I was overwhelmed, being surrounded by great businessmen and millionaires and billionaires… I learned about the economy and the impact of economics in countries, because they were high-level discussions about countries and how to navigate businesses in developing countries and developed countries,” Gubeka said.
Gubeka aspires for his brand to be known all over the world.
“I see my brand as an international conglomerate with flagship stores in major cities, which is achievable, as we launched in the US market early this year,” he said.
“We’re also planning to expand to countries like the UK, Japan and China.”