Ilundi: A labour of love with leather

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Ilundi bag. Image courtesy of Angie Batis Durrant.

Leather – durable, flexible and timeless ­– is the basis of Ilundi, a Cape Town-based brand that produces intricate bags and accessories that are as elegant as they are meticulously handmade. From handbags to belts, the Ilundi range is inspired by Safia Tucker’s passion for the processes involved in creating each piece by hand, her surroundings and the imperfections of leather that accentuate the uniqueness of each product.

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Safia Tucker.

The name Ilundi was inspired by a friend from Mozambique and is the feminine version of the town Ulundi – the same region where the leather is sourced. What started as a hobby in 2010 went on to become a fully-fledged business in 2013. The Ilundi team consists of various craftsmen and craftswomen, a sales team of two, a PA, a production and sales manager, and Safia.

How did Ilundi come about?

Both my parents serve as inspiration. They have always encouraged me to pursue my creative endeavours and passions. After struggling to find the right bag while studying Fine Art, I decided to make my own. My leather craft hobby soon became my passion and evolved slowly into a business. 

Why is it important to put such emphasis on the craftsmanship involved in creating your range?

It is very important to me that our products are all made from locally sourced materials and that they are ethically made, as that forms a large part of our business ethos. Handcrafted goods are made with more attention and allow for more control over production. By utilising age-old techniques, we preserve traditional knowledge and talent. Every item is hand-punched, hand-stitched and dyed by hand. We train our staff in-house before they start, and give them a lot of responsibility, equipping them with valuable skills.

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Who do you make your products for?

About 80% of our customers are women and 20% are men. The average age group of our customers is between 30 and 50 years old.

When she started the business, Safia didn’t have capital nor financial assistance, and had very few tools. This led to the innovation of her first design, the Signature Sling bag, which requires no stitching nor gluing, yet remains the most popular design to date.

Do you intend to make the brand available only at select stores and through yourself for wholesale inquiries or to venture into large retail outlets?

We produce unique handcrafted goods for a niche market, so I would like to keep it exclusive for now.

What inspires your intricate designs?

I am inspired by all of my natural surroundings, especially the mountains and foliage I can see from our studio window.

A bag can take up to 14 hours to make by hand, a labour of love that results in “hand-cut, hand-stitched, hand-woven originals”. Asked if there were any intentions to expand the business, Safia explained that while the company does export to various small boutiques in Europe, Africa and America, she would love to expand to the Asian market next.

Purchase Ilundi products online or in Cape Town at F59 Watershed at the V&A Waterfront, the Neighbourgoods Market in Woodstock or at Ilundi’s studio in Salt River where appointments can be made in advance.

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