Han­neli ru­pert, founder of lux­ury brand okapi, tells us what she’s learnt

Founder and flag-bearer of lux­ury goods brand Okapi re­flects on her cre­ative and busi­ness jour­ney

Condé Nast House & Garden - - CONTENTS -

Trust your cre­ative in­stinct.

I be­gan keep­ing di­aries and sketch­books when I was around nine-years-old, so de­sign wasn’t re­ally some­thing I ever dis­cov­ered. Rather, it was a nat­u­ral form of ex­pres­sion, which I imag­ine most chil­dren have. I even­tu­ally stud­ied fine arts and painted for sev­eral years be­fore start­ing Okapi.

Learn from team talk.

When I was paint­ing I worked in iso­la­tion. That was when I learnt most about my­self. Be­ing in a busi­ness how­ever, that’s when I learnt about other peo­ple. Af­ter my ex­pe­ri­ences, the most valu­able piece of ad­vice I could pass on to oth­ers is just to lis­ten – you learn so much more by not speak­ing.

Na­ture is the ul­ti­mate in­spi­ra­tion.

The na­ture and won­der of Africa and the link be­tween the two in­spire me. I am al­ways in awe of the nat­u­ral world. I don’t be­lieve I will ever see any­thing man-made that can match it. That’s why I fo­cus on sus­tain­abil­ity.

Find a brand icon and de­velop it.

I’ve al­ways been in­ter­ested in un­usual yet un­en­dan­gered ma­te­ri­als such as the Springbok horn. I wanted to el­e­vate them to lux­ury sta­tus. The horns are sourced as a byprod­uct (as the ma­jor­ity of Okapi’s raw ma­te­ri­als are). By in­cor­po­rat­ing them, Okapi is tak­ing what would be waste, and cre­at­ing sus­tain­able em­ploy­ment on the African con­ti­nent.

Re­spect her­itage, in­volve com­mu­nity.

All cul­tures are born and built on legacy and tra­di­tion; that’s why I be­lieve in so­cial in­te­gra­tion of peo­ple from all walks of life. One day I want to see and con­trib­ute to a world that re­flects that ethos.

FROM FAR LEFT: HAN­NELI RU­PERT; HAN­NELI’S DE­SIGNS TAK­ING SHAPE ON PAPER

CLOCK­WISE, FROM LEFT: LATHRYUS & CHILLI RED OS­TRICH SHIN CLUTCH; A ONE-OF-A-KIND OKAPI BAG CRE­ATED IN A WOMEN’S WORK­SHOP; THE YEMAJA BAG IN LEATHER AND GOLD

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