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Q & A

What is an Okapi?

The Okapi is an exotic African antelope. It is an elusive forest dwelling creature that is native to the Ituri Rainforest, located in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Central Africa. Although the Okapi bears striped markings reminiscent of zebras, it is most closely related to the giraffe. The Okapi was discovered at the turn of the century in the anthropological era of African exploration.

Okapi is named after this elusive antelope that is otherwise know as the ‘African Unicorn’. The Art Nouveau aesthetic, magic, mysticism and reverence to nature during the time of its discovery, which is still relevant today, all make up Okapi’s design code.

What is a Springbok?

The Springbok is the national animal of South Africa. It is a medium-sized brown and white gazelle that roams the open plains and grasslands of the dry inland areas of southwestern Africa. Their natural habitat extends from the northwestern part of South Africa through the Kalahari Desert into Namibia and Botswana. Both male and female springbok have distinctive horns which average 35cm in length. Springboks occur in numbers of up to 2.5 million in South Africa alone.

The springbok is categorized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as “Least Concern” as the species is widespread and one of the most abundant antelopes of the southern African region. There are no threats to its long- term survival.

What is a Blesbok?

A Blesbok is an antelope indigenous to South Africa. Characterised by a distinctive white blaze on the face and a horizontal brown stripe above the eyes. The blesbok is found in large numbers in all national parks with open grasslands in South Africa.

Working with select tanneries in the Karoo region, Okapi has pioneered the use of Blesbok leather. A lengthy process was undertaken to develop the skin for use in our bags and accessories. It took five months alone to create the correct colours for the leather. As with our other leathers, Blesbok skin is in keeping with our ethos as it is ethically and sustainably sourced as a bi-product in Africa. The Blesbok is one of the most abundant antelopes of the South African region and there are no threats to its long-term survival.

How do you source the Springbok horns?

The Springbok horn is a signature feature on an Okapi bag. The horns are sustainably and ethically sourced from farmers in the Karoo region of South Africa. Springboks are regularly farmed for their meat and the horns are most often merely disposed of, so they are obtained as a by-product of existing farming practices. The Springbok horns are then prepared and polished by local artisans in the Karoo. This process of horn preparation has successfully created new employment opportunities in the area.

What is an ostrich?

An ostrich is a large flightless bird, which is native to Africa. It is distinctive in its appearance, with a long neck and legs, and has the fastest land speed of any bird.

Ostrich leather is made characteristic by the unique quill pattern found on the skin. To produce the finest ostrich leather, the skins go through an intensive and specialised production process, which is why it is considered to be exotic leather. Ostrich farming is a long established trade in South Africa and Okapi source their leather as a by-product of other farming practices.

Where do you source ostrich leather?

Through the development of Okapi, strong relationships have been established with the ostrich farming communities of the Karoo region in South Africa. Working directly with the farmers and tannery gives us a very unique insight into exactly where our skins come from and ensures ethical and sustainable practices.

Where are your materials sourced?

Every element of an Okapi bag is entirely traceable, sustainable and ethically sourced. 100% of the chains, horns, labels, leathers, skins, lining and packaging is made and sourced in South Africa.

Quality and quantity?

Every Okapi product is made to the highest standards and is 100% sourced and made in Africa. As all the materials are naturally sourced and the products handmade, this means every piece is unique. The use of natural materials means that each product will become more beautiful with age and wear.

As a result of the artisan processes used to create each Okapi bag, there is only a limited number created each year, making the bags and accessories even more exclusive.

Sustainability?

All materials used to make Okapi products are ethical and locally sourced, which makes all materials used 100% traceable. The making of our bags entails sustainable job creation and skill development, while being environmentally sustainable.

Job creation?

Okapi is committed to sourcing and manufacturing our products solely in Africa, and an important extension of this is sustainable job creation there. Through the production process we have created new jobs and skill development, while also supporting established African trade and business. It is our hope that as Okapi’s following grows, so too will Okapi’s reach in further creating sustainable jobs and developing skills.

What makes every bag so unique?

Every Okapi bag is unique as each one is handmade from carefully selected raw materials. The skins are specifically chosen because of their natural markings which gives them an organic, changeable quality. Over time from use the leather will develop its own patinas. Every Springbok horn is different and requires hardware to be individually made to fit. Each element of an Okapi bag is produced and assembled by skilled artisans who contribute to making each bag unique and ensuring it will become more beautiful with age.

Where and how is the Okapi hardware made?

Every piece of hardware on an Okapi bag is handmade by our in-house team in Cape Town. This includes each individual link on our chains and the horn caps for our signature Springbok horns. All our hardware is plated in either 18-Carat gold or black nickel.

Why is Blesbok leather unique to Okapi?

Working with select tanneries in the Karoo region, Okapi has pioneered the use of Blesbok leather. A lengthy process was undertaken to develop the skin for use in our bags and accessories. The process began with famers from around the Western Cape who produce the skins as a bi-product of existing farming practice. Following this the skins go to the co-operatively run tannery in Outeniqua, with whom we have developed the finished skin. It took five months alone to create the correct colours for the leather. As with our other leathers, Blesbok skin as in keeping with our ethos as it is ethically and sustainably sourced as a bi-product in Africa.

How sustainable is the use of ostrich leather?

Ostrich is an extremely sustainable material to use as the Ostrich is so versatile from a farming perspective. The whole Ostrich can be used whether for meat, leather or feathers so nothing goes to waste. Okapi sources the leather for its products as a bi-product from these other farming practices in the Karoo.

What is culling?

Culling is a process of controlling the animal population in order to maintain the balance between animals and the environment they live in. This is a very common form of wildlife management and has been used in Africa since the late 1970’s to control Springbok and Blesbok numbers. Culling is carried out in a humane and controlled way, and the animals are subsequently used for their meat or skin.

Where are Okapi products manufactured?

Okapi products are manufactured in South Africa, in a small artisan factory in Cape Town. Skilled leather craftsmen work on each bag individually, which can each take up to a month to complete.

How is the zebra print created?

Some of our Blesbok and ostrich skins are embossed with a zebra print. Skilled artisans use a hot plate to stamp the skins with the zebra print, creating an effect that is unique to Okapi.

Traceability?

All Okapi products are 100% traceable. Working closely with the farmers, tanneries and skilled artisans means that we are able to track where all our raw materials come. We are then able follow every step of the production process involved in creating one of our products.

How do I care for my Okapi product?

Follow these special care instructions and watch your Okapi leather product become more beautiful with age.
 
Precautionary measures:
• Do not overload your bag. The leather will stretch and not return to its original shape. Overloading your bag may also result in failures of the handles or straps. We do not recommend burdening the Oya or Yemaja bags with more than 1kg worth of items, and not more than 2,5kgs for the Lamia or Mawu bags.
• Avoid exposing your product to direct sources of light, heat or humidity.
• Take special care with products that have “oily pull up” (OPU) finished leathers, as these leathers are particularly sensitive and susceptible to scratches. Surface scratches can be removed by rubbing the affected area with your fingers.
• Prevent any contact with alcohol (perfume, solvent) and greasy substances (make-up).
• Avoid contact with rough or abrasive materials.
• Store your leather product in the protective cloth bag provided when not in use, this will protect it against dust. You can also fill your handbag with silk paper so that it will retain its shape.
• Take specific care of light coloured bags to avoid stains.
• Ink will permanently mark your leather product.
• Waterproof your product and maintain it with a professional leather conditioner regularly. We advise that you first test any products on a hidden area of leather in order to anticipate any potential undesirable effects a product may cause.

Cleaning of leathers
• To clean your product, wipe it with a non-abrasive, damp cloth. Do not use any soap or detergent.
• In case of contact with water, do not rub the leather. Use a clean dry cloth to apply a gentle taping motion to absorb the liquid, then leave to dry at room temperature.
• If a stain occurs, dab the area with a damp soft cloth and leave to dry. If this does not work, apply a clear leather cream using gentle circular motions. We advise that you test the product on a hidden area of leather first.
• Oil stains should be treated by immediately sprinkling the affected area with talcum powder. Leave to stand before brushing off any excess.

Metal hardware & Springbok horn
• Okapi hardware is plated with 18-Carat gold or black nickel. The nature of plated metals is that they may tarnish or scratch if not cared for correctly.
• To clean hardware, use a soft dry cloth. Do not use any detergents or solvents to clean the plated metal hardware.
• Avoid exposing the horn or hardware to rough surfaces as this may result in chips or scratches.
• If your bag has a detachable chain handle or Springbok horn, we recommend these pieces are stored inside the bag when the bag is not in use.
• The Springbok horn can be buffed using regular polish
• The Springbok horn is a natural weapon in nature and should be handled with care.
• Do not leave your bag around puppies, or infant dogs of any age, as they may find the Springbok horn particularly delectable.

Note: Springbok horns are sustainably and ethically sourced and are obtained as a by-product of existing established farming practices. The Springbok is categorized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as “Least Concern” and there are absolutely no threats to its long-term survival.