De­signer brings back leather chic

Lesotho Times - - Weekender - Mo­halenyane Phakela

THEY say ne­ces­sity is the mother of in­ven­tion, and for leather con­nois­seur Tu­mane Tha­bane un­em­ploy­ment was the nudge he needed to start a busi­ness.

Tha­bane, who owns the Litha­ba­neng-based Haka Pro­duc­tions told the Week­ender this week that he for­ayed into the leather prod­ucts busi­ness in 2006 af­ter grad­u­at­ing with a de­gree in Sta­tis­tics at the Na­tional Univer­sity of Le­sotho (NUL) and fail­ing to find a job.

“Af­ter grad­u­at­ing from NUL, I re­alised that I had a lot of time on my hands since I could not get a job,” he said.

“I then joined my friend, Moeketsi Ramokhosi, in his leather sandals busi­ness in 2006. That went on un­til 2009 when I fi­nally found a job at the Min­istry of De­vel­op­ment.

“I still had the pas­sion for mak­ing leather prod­ucts, so I made a belt by copy­ing the one I had bought, and some­one told me they wanted to buy it.”

Tha­bane said he con­tin­ued mak­ing belts in his spare time un­til 2012 when he de­cided to form and reg­is­ter a com­pany called Haka Pro­duc­tions.

“From then on, I di­ver­si­fied my prod­uct range to in­clude bracelets, earrings, belts, gun-hold­ers and bags,” he said.

“I would copy the de­signs from the in­ter­net or from cloth­ing stores un­til I could cre­ate my own. With time, I be­came pop­u­lar by ad­ver­tis­ing my­self on so­cial me­dia.

“When I re­alised that I could ac­tu­ally earn a liv­ing through my pas­sion, I re­signed from my job last year and went to study leather tan­ning in China from Septem­ber to Novem­ber cour­tesy of the Chi­nese Em­bassy in Le­sotho.”

Tha­bane said the course equipped him with a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of leather and how to ma­nip­u­late it into dif­fer­ent forms such as soft, hard, rough or smooth as well as chang­ing its colour. Dur­ing the China trip, he also had the op­por­tu­nity to meet po­ten­tial sup­pli­ers.

Fol­low­ing his re­turn home, Tha­bane put the train­ing into prac­tise by mak­ing leather prod­ucts that would ap­peal to young peo­ple.

“Leather prod­ucts were of­ten as­so­ci­ated with old peo­ple be­cause they usu­ally came in the colours of black and brown,” he said.

“I de­cided to change that monotony by adorn­ing my prod­ucts with dif­fer­ent vi­brant colours rang­ing from or­ange, red, green, pink and blue de­pend­ing on the client’s pref­er­ence.”

Over the years, Haka Pro­duc­tions has been show­cased in a num­ber of ex­hi­bi­tions around the coun­try and in South Africa. Tha­bane clinched the num­ber two spot in the leather pro­duc­tion cat­e­gory dur­ing last year’s tourism awards. He also won se­cond place dur­ing the Hookup Din­ner, a Sub-sa­ha­ran African net­work of emerg­ing en­trepreneurs held at Pi­o­neer Mall last week.

Like other en­trepreneurs, Tha­bane has his fair share of chal­lenges. He said it was dif­fi­cult to find peo­ple with whom he could part­ner.

“What kills most Ba­sotho busi­nesses is their un­will­ing­ness to work to­gether with oth­ers as they of­ten think they would lose out. I have ap­proached many peo­ple to part­ner with them, but so far noth­ing has ma­te­ri­alised,” he said.

“My other chal­lenge is that most cus­tomers want to buy my prod­ucts on credit and come up with de­lay­ing tac­tics when the time to pay comes, and that is bad for busi­ness.”

How­ever, he said such chal­lenges did not de­ter him from his dream to sup­ply ma­jor ap­parel stores and renowned bou­tique with his prod­ucts. He also plans to hold a fash­ion show to ex­hibit his prod­ucts on the run­way.

Tu­mane Tha­bane (wear­ing hat) sells some of his leather prod­ucts.

SOME of Tha­bane's mer­chan­dise

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