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Textile designer taking African craft to the world

Written by Jauhara Khan
An entrepreneur wants to establish a lasting legacy that adds sustainable value to the local creative industry

Textile designer and businesswoman Nthabi Lephoko with one of the leather bags she designed. Lephoko owns Leratolethato, a leather design and manufacturing company based in Cape Town.Textile designer and businesswoman Nthabi Lephoko has set her sights on taking South Africa’s leather goods industry to the world.

Lephoko is the head designer and director of Leratolethato, her own leather design and manufacturing company based in Cape Town.

She started her business in 2011 while conducting a feasibility study on animal skin and hides with the Department of Trade and Industry (dti).

“I was inspired by the opportunities in this sector, and have never looked back. I was able to establish my company which currently employs six people, and I am definitely looking forward to expanding operations,” she said.

Her company produces a variety of fashion products such as card holders, wallets, leather belts, handbags and clothing.

“I also do a furniture range for which I manufacture cushions, chairs and couches,” said Lephoko.

Her depth of knowledge in management and marketing has enabled her to grow her business in local markets.

“The local reception for my range of products has been interesting. I have had the opportunity to supply small niche boutiques. I have always been targeting a niche market and I have a passion for it. I have an understanding that there is a great buying power within that market,” she said.

Lephoko believed in creating an attractive product that appealed to a wider market.

“In terms of managing cash flow it is important to always have an entry product which can be targeted at the mainstream market. The only way that one can master that is when one expands so that we are able to manufacture more and trigger a positive cash flow.”

Lephoko wants to establish a lasting legacy that adds sustainable value to the local creative industry. She already has plans to grow her business and achieve this ideal.

“I am looking at establishing an incubator which will focus on leather manufacturing and I can share my skills with other people. Some of the reasons I would like to expand and eventually establish an incubator is to get the kind of support I need and the kind of quality control that would enable me to meet standards internationally,” she said.

The Clothing and Textiles Competitiveness Programme approved R4,9 billion to create and save jobs in the sector last year through the Production Incentives Programme (PIP) within the Clothing and Textiles. In addition, more than R3.1 billion was disbursed until the financial year 2016/2017.

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