As pioneers of ultra-luxe Southern and East African travel our multicultural team provides the most comprehensive and discerning range of storybook experiences and ultimate insider access with extraordinary dedication to perfection.
ROAR AFRICA consistently creates new, cultivated, and unusual offerings for our international clientele, all whilst in the service of preserving the animals and environment of our fragile and extraordinary homeland and providing opportunity for its people. One South African woman who shares this ethos is Hanneli Rupert.
Fashion entrepreneur Hanneli Rupert’s background in fine arts has most certainly aided the trajectory of her sustainable luxury African handbag and accessory range Okapi. However, it was her desire to showcase the best of Africa coupled with her savvy eye for design and a nose for creative collaboration, that has ensured its continued success.
‘I launched Okapi more than ten years ago after struggling to find pieces for myself that were uniquely African in look and feel as well as original and timeless,’ she explains. ‘Once I began investigating this further, I was amazed at the abundance of available resources from leather to horn and other by-products, and so the idea of celebrating the continent’s artisanal traditions in a luxury accessories brand with deep African roots grew from that.’
From the start Hanneli did things differently, naming her brand Okapi after an elusive antelope that was once considered so mystical it was called the ‘African Unicorn.’ That is, until the turn of the century when this elegant yet ungainly creature (the closest and sole living relative to the giraffe) was finally discovered during an era of mass anthropological exploration. Inspired by its very survival, Hanneli’s vision was that all Okapi bags should be entirely traceable, sustainable and authentically African – yet another point of departure in an increasingly fickle fashion world where the bottom line rules. Just as ROAR AFRICA does not believe in “fast travel”, but handcrafted intimate experiences, ‘We do not believe in fast fashion,’ says Hanneli. ‘Our bags are built to last a lifetime and designed as bespoke pieces that their owners can customize and add to as time goes by.’
This plays directly to Okapi’s commitment to creating a sustainable industry in Africa, defined by trade not aid, with skills development and job creation a top priority. ‘All our bags are designed, sourced and manufactured in South Africa and all our leathers are the by-product of existing farming practices.’ Which is why, besides its obvious aesthetic appeal, ostrich leather is such a key material for Okapi in that the brand makes use of every part of the bird ‘from the shells and shins to the leathers and feathers’.
And while Okapi’s design code may be inspired by the mysticism of the Okapi, it is fueled by Hanneli’s love of the arts, her curiosity about contemporary culture and her reverence for the natural world. ‘In Africa, we’re blessed not only with an abundance of nature but with the inherent knowledge that life is transient, so we’re able to cut to the core of what ‘real luxury’ means,’ she explains. Drawing a parallel to authentic luxury travel; ‘In my experience, it comes down to the experiences you gather in life, not the things,’ says Hanneli.
Hanneli’s genius for identifying these experiences through collaborations with other creators on the continent has led to exciting developments for her fashion brand. It was while investigating the local African luxury market for Okapi that she discovered other brands doing similar things and decided to create a platform for them in the form of the retail emporium, Merchants on Long in Cape Town. ‘It was really a way to curate the top African brands whilst giving some of the newer ones a platform from which to launch themselves.’
From the early days of Merchants on Long, Hanneli worked closely with knitwear designer Laduma Ngxokolo, whose brilliant Xhosa-inspired range entitled Maxhosa Laduma, is now sold around the globe. ‘I instantly loved the authenticity and aesthetic sensibility of Laduma’s work and have collaborated with him ever since.’
Taking that one step further is an exciting launch today of a Capsule Unisex Collection that showcases a collaboration between Okapi, Maxhosa Laduma and South African rap artist Riky Rick. In fact, the Riky Rick collaboration was borne out of a customized shopping experience that Okapi & ROAR AFRICA offer our customers whereby you can work with an Okapi specialist to create the bag of your dreams. You can add on or subtract elements much like a charm bracelet – Okapi offers a limited-edition range of high-quality exotic leathers as well as the opportunity to select your own finishes, stitching, clasps, and handmade talisman – thus ensuring that your handbag is unique to you and the only one of its kind in the world! ‘Riky is a long-standing customer of Merchant’s on Long and Okapi for whom we’ve created many customized pieces,’ explains Hanneli. ‘It made sense to incorporate Riky’s incredible sense of style with Laduma’s fashion-forward use of color and pattern, backed by the refined craftsmanship of Okapi’s signature pieces.’ The result is a bespoke and contemporary range of luxury unisex accessories of which Africa can be proud.
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