Luxe leather bags: the essential glam travel accessory

Off somewhere fabulous? A luxe leather travel bag from a proudly South African designer is a chance to show off local artistry at its finest.

Genuine leather is a timeless material. An aged, worn leather bag still looks smart as it develops a rich patina over time. It’s also versatile (goes with any outfit, mood and occasion) and durable, which makes it the perfect choice for the discerning frequent traveller.  

High on our list of checks when buying leather goods is to supporting local businesses that follow sustainable practices and, of course, offer superior artisanship and style. These brands are on our radar right now:

“Leather is alive, malleable, strong and characterful, and in today’s disposable society, we believe we are offering something sustainable and green,”

Amanda McCarthy, Director of Groundcover Leather
Ilundi’s Heirloom Travel Bag

Room To Move 

Ilundi’s Heirloom Travel Bag (R3,500) is a leather weekender bag that tells the narrative of the brand’s sleek style. “Influenced by minimalist Japanese aesthetic principles and clean-cut Scandinavian designs, products are stripped down to their essential qualities to achieve simplicity,” says director Brando Tucker.  

Pieces are produced with artisanal ability – hand-cut, hand-stitched, hand-woven originals, he adds. Certainly Ilundi’s leather bags are labours of love. Hand stitched only, “they can take up to 14 hours to make. Every hole is hand punched and every stitch hand sewn,” says Tucker. Like fine wine, this luxe leather travel carrier should age beautifully and “mould to your lifestyle”, he explains. Every time it’s handled, “the natural oils from your hands will be transferred to condition it.” 

Isvakashi duffel bag

Pride of Africa

Describing this brand’s DNA as minimalistic and simple, founder and Creative Director Inga Gubeka of Inga Atelier, feels leather hasn’t been explored enough on our continent. “We have not been able to use it to make exquisite leather goods that can compete on a global scale,” he explains. A life-long lover of leather, he says the material allows him to be more creative and, of course, design striking pieces.  

 “The house’s Isvakashi duffel bag (R6,889.99) is very practical for the man on the go,” says Gubeka. “Also, our backpack (R5,354.99) paired with the duffel bag makes for a good combination: carry your laptop on your back, paired with the leather duffel bag,” he suggests.

Sound Investment  

Amanda McCarthy is director of Groundcover Leather, which is based in the Midlands Meander. The company creates leather handbags, accessories, shoes and more, but it’s their travel leather bags – perhaps due to their size and splendour – that speak to the material’s longevity, especially in a world of fast fashion. “Leather is alive, malleable, strong and characterful, and in today’s disposable society, we believe we are offering something sustainable and green,” says McCarthy. Their Travel Bag (R3,340) is perfect for weekends away with your plus one.  

Groundcover Leather Travel Bag

Personal Touch 

Want to gift a truly bespoke piece? A leather bag from Cape Town, monogrammed with the receiver’s initials is a luxe leather gift that will always be appreciated. Enter Zemp, which has a desire to innovate, encourage sustainable practices and play an active role in social responsibility, contributing to the communities in which the brand operates, explains owner and director, Peter Zemp. “Most recently we’ve partnered with the Peninsula School Feeding Association and have invited Summerdale High’s students to partake in an exciting design initiative that they’re at the centre of,” says Zemp. Now, think of that project and more every time you pack your monogrammed Boho DesignSafari (R 4,995) before take-off. Feels good right? 

Local Design Gone Globetrotting  

Meet Adrian Furstenburg, a Joburg-born Singapore local, as well as one of the world’s rising luxury leather goods designers. Founder of Adrian Furstenburg, the eponymous creative came into the SA spotlight after being awarded “All About the Logo” by Guess Handbags at the 10th Independent Handbag Design Awards in New York.  

His stance on luxe leather speaks to discerning clients expecting innovation. “The AF brand is aboutco-creating with our customers,” explains Furstenburg. “A range of best-selling styles can be customised exactly to your wants. This includes specific colours inspired by your car, for example, with our branded hardware plated in gold or silver.” Translation? On demand manufacturing. Ethically sourced leather from France is used to make each bag individually in Singapore rather than producing stock and hoping it will sell.  

Tech is also coming into the equation later in the year. “We are laying the foundations to exist both digitally and physically, meaning that each client can view their piece in augmented reality, can pay for it with a phone click, receive a digital twin as an NFT (to wear in the metaverse if they wish) and have details around transparency (the environmental impact of having a customised product versus a store bought one, for instance) loaded onto a blockchain.” And yes, Adrian Furstenburg leather bags are available worldwide and can be shipped anywhere in SA.

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The Master: Inga Gubeka

Product designer and founder of luxury handbag company Inga Atelier Inga Gubeka credits his humble beginnings for his inherent creativity.