The interior of the new Okapi store in Johannesburg

Okapi, the African luxury accessories brands established by Richemont scion Hanneli Rupert in 2008, has unveiled a flagship in Johannesburg in the Trumpet Building in the new cultural district Keyes Art Mile, in the suburb of Rosebank.

Rupert admitted that the Okapi boutique was “about five years in the planning. Finding the right space in Johannesburg was difficult, but we have always been more aligned to the art scene than fashion, and when the plans started for the Keyes Art Mile, I knew it would be the right fit for us.”

The interior, featuring gleaming marble floors and muted gold accents, was designed by South African design studio Tonic Design, headed by Greg Gamble and Philip van der Merwe.

Rupert has described her line as subtle and sophisticated as well as luxurious and artisanal, crafted from napa leather, suede, ostrich and exotic hides. Retailing from around $250 to $10,000, the products are understated, with the only marked sign of branding the logo, which consists of the name and a pair of entwined okapis lasered onto African woods and individually fitted into gold casings — the okapi is the elusive, almost mythical animal referred to as the African unicorn and native to the Congo. Another signature feature is the springbok horns worked into the design of each bag. “I have kept to classical lines and colors and quality control is key to the products,” she said.

It was time for Okapi to have its own retail space, said Rupert. As a South African brand, “it was a natural choice to put our first flagship in Johannesburg.” From its inception, Okapi has been showcased in Rupert’s other “baby,” her Cape Town concept store Merchants on Long, which features a selection of African brands, including Lalesso, Patrick Mavros, Kirsten Goss, MaXhosa by Laduma, Chulaap, Laurence Airline and Fundudzi, among others.

In time, however, “the two brands’ identities were becoming very blurred,” she said. “It was important for me to establish a home for Okapi outside of Merchants on Long.” Okapi is also available in London, through the regular Merchants on Long pop-ups on Eaton Terrace.

Eventually, Rupert plans to develop Okapi into a lifestyle brand, expanding it to include homeware. “They will carry the same hallmarks as the bags: simple pieces of exceptional quality, all made by hand, each one embodying the best of Africa.”

The Johannesburg store offers bespoke services, allowing customers to customize their bags via personalized embossing.

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