In conversation with founder of Okapi and Merchants on long


Hanneli Rupert is the founder and Creative Director of Luxury Brand Okapi and Merchants on Long in Cape Town, one of the very first concept stores focused solely on high end African designs.

The new Okapi range of belt bags made in collaboration with fellow creatives, designer Laduma Ngxokolo  and hip-hop artist Riky Rick, was recently nominated by renowned fashion stylist Felipe Mazibuko for Design Indaba’s 2019 Most Beautiful Object in South Africa (MBOISA) award.

How did your fashion journey begin?

HR: I studied Fine Arts and fell into fashion by fluke. I was questioning my next move and decided to move back to South Africa from Europe to do something practical. Something that would contribute to society by creating jobs but also involve our abundant natural resources in a conscientious, environmentally sustainable way. Okapi was born out of that and then came Merchants on Long.

So after establishing your own luxury accessories brand, a multi brand retail concept space came about?

HR: Yes, I had created Okapi and was looking for a home base. But what I also discovered along is that so many incredible craftsmen and designers from around the continent were lacking a dedicated point of sale and I decided to open my space for all of them to retail from.

Your thoughts on the viability of the African luxury market?

HR: To be viable African luxury products need to focus on handcrafted items and really consider the materials they are made from. I think it’s important for designers to continually focus on quality control, always striving to make superior product. Be inspired by the world around you but be original and authentic with your work.

What do you think it would it take for us be at the level of Gucci and Chanel?

HR: Think about the foundations of Chanel and Gucci, their brand signifiers and how they came to be where they are today. African designers need to concentrate on their heritage but also very importantly the wealth of materials that surround them. The two need to be married.

The Future looks like …

HR: I would like to start a centre of research for the use of by-product and waste material. Our focus is on ‘Farm to Fashion’ materials and I think the ethos can be expanded.

Instagram handle: @anniciam | @nichluxe

Founder of NichLuxe, focusing on the business of Luxury in Africa with special interests in Art, Design and Travel.

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