Ntini wants to supply more fashion items in future

Modern spin to a familiar material leads to dream business

KP Leather gives a modern twist to an old favourite.
Once use only KP Leather gives a modern twist to an old favourite.
Image: Supplied

They’re cheap, they’re reliable, and they often carry with them perfect nostalgia. Whether you know them as Chinatown totes or Machangani, this nylon bag is the epitome of profound sentimental memories.

While migration and mining are often a major attribute, the modern reinterpretations of the bag have seen them used as the canvas for appropriation and a confrontational high-art pieces. However, leatherworker Msizi Ntini is turning this dated bag into his own fortune through his business, KP Leather.

Born in Zimbabwe, Ntini moved to SA after a period of working at a transport company. With the payout from the company, he was able to move to SA, where he worked at a tannery.

Ntini’s grandfather had taught him the foundations of making leather shoes before he passed away. It was after seeing his grandfather in a dream that Ntini decided to start a leather-goods business.

“While I was sleeping, my grandfather came to me holding his udondolo [walking stick] and asked me to go fetch his shoes. When I brought them to him, he told me to sew them instead,” Ntini says. “I realised I had no tools to do the sewing, so I ran around and used the wires from a bicycle as an awl [a tool for puncturing holes]. The skills all came back to me through that dream.”

After waking up the next morning, Ntini was compelled to create more shoes using makeshift apparatus. Some of Ntini’s designs followed the sewing style of his mother, who often used to sew with him.

Working first with leather goods, Ntini created chic bags for his customers but looked to a more authentic source to give the bags pizzazz.

“I find it difficult to work with leather, so I started using it with African fabrics like seshweshwe, but it was not working for me. It also was not selling well until someone brought a bag to me and asked that I make one from China-bag material,” says Ntini laughing, looking back at the unexpected modern interpretation of the bag.

“So, I came up with my own designs for the bags and I am always looking to make an improvement with each one of my products.”

Hoping to turn KP Leather into a “one-stop leather accessories” legacy brand, Ntini is looking to foray into supplying more fashion items in the future. With finances pinching their ability to scale their business, Ntini is also holding back on placing his logo on the bags until he has the revenue to brand the bags appropriately.

He hopes to get more business assistance and investors.