For close to 3 years, Gonzala Leathers has established itself as a fine leather art company committed to designing and creating custom made leather products in Kenya. With high end quality hand-made leather products like belts, handbags, traveling bags and wallets, Gonzala Leathers provides not only items suited for travelers but also the ideal range of gifts for your loved ones.
Tell us a bit about yourself. Who is Gabriel and what do you do?
My name is Gabriel Anzala. I am an artist & the founder and head designer at Gonzala Leathers. We craft custom bags and leather products and designs of our own as well. We are not limited to bags only as we have also done sofa sets, camping chairs, knife case and even bean bags.
How did Gonzala leathers start?
Gonzala leathers started when I quit employment in pursuit of filling the gap of the growing demand for custom leather products. I started alone at the time with only one machine – which wasn’t even a heavy duty machine. Slowly by slowly, by the grace of God, the business grew and I was able to acquire more heavy duty machines, employees and partners to work with.
Did you always picture getting into this line of work? Or what did you want to pursue as you grew up?
As I grew up, I wanted to deal with anything that related to tourism, as you can see I did not miss the mark by far. I deal with numerous tourists in this business as they form a huge customer base for the company. Our products tend to cater for travelers and people on safari, therefore I end up dealing with a lot of tourists. However, most of our clients are now local because lately there has been an appreciation for leather products by the locals.
Describe to us your typical day of work
My typical day of work involves preparing what work to be done. This is usually done the previous day however on the material day you might run into unforeseen circumstances therefore requiring changes of the original plan. After planning comes execution time! If it’s a custom product, first thing is crafting the patterns that will be used to prepare the bag. Next thing is cutting the bag and then assembling of the bag in its logical order for the stitchery. The last process is the actual stitching of the assembled parts to form the bag.
How many clients and orders do you get in a day/week/month? What are some of the biggest clients and orders you’ve made?
We get a varied number of clients and orders every month. Some months we might craft only ten bags, other months we may craft hundreds. Our biggest order was to craft 700 folders for a conference that Enchanting Travels were holding. Another sizeable order we did was one where we made more than one hundred leather travel bags and wash bags that were end of year gifts headed to the top management of the Coca-Cola Company.
How hard is it to source your material from? If hard, what do you think we can do as a Kenyan market to make sure some of these materials are more accessible?
We get our leather from tanneries in Limuru, Sagana and Thika depending on the type and convenience. Our brass accessories are from local artisans in Kibera and Karen; we like to promote the growth of local artisans who produce quality products.
What motivates you?
What motivates me?? Hmmmm… poverty! LOL just kidding. Creativity and exponential growth are some of the things that motivate me. It is wonderful to always break the barriers of your creative thinking. When you create a piece and you think of it as your best piece ever only to create a better piece tomorrow – that is what motivates me most times when I wake up in the morning – other times it’s my landlord haha.
What are some of the biggest and most memorable moments of your life so far?
One of the biggest moments of my life was when I quit my stable job to start this company. It was a huge risk that I certainly do not regret. The journey has been a sweet and tough one, if I must say.
What are some of the ups and down you’ve faced in your business?
Some of the ups include the joy of creating. Most people don’t get to do what they love full-time. Getting paid to do what you love is definitely fulfilling. The downs include a shortage of skilled laborers in the field. This business is also capital intensive and needs a lot of money to run and sustain.
How many employees/staff do you have? What do they do?
We have five permanent staff and around 5 casual workers. The company is lucky to have staff members that are all all-rounded. They can assemble, stitch, make patterns and join the parts to a final product. Some of the tasks they handle include cutting, assembling, marketing, stitching and photography of the finished products.
Do you have any other side businesses or ventures apart from Gonzala leathers?
At the moment I do not have any side business apart from Gonzala Leathers. I eat, sleep and breathe Gonzala.
As a designer how is the fashion market in Kenya? What do you think fashion designers and creators should do to promote the fashion industry in not just Kenya but east Africa and Africa as well?
The fashion industry in Kenya is growing really really fast! I am really proud that the locals are starting to appreciate local products. The local artisans are also upping their game in that they are producing high-end quality products. There is only one way the industry is going and which is sky-high. We should continue campaigning for the locals to start shopping local, which will boost the market a lot.
The main problem is in educating them, most of the locals don’t believe they can find quality products here at home; they end up depending on cheap Chinese products that are intentionally manufactured with a particular life span. For example, a Chinese handbag that costs Kshs 6,000 may last only two years which means you end up replacing the bag every two years; however if they had bought a genuine leather handbag that costs Kshs 8,000 from us at Gonzala – we have the most competitive price in the market – it would last a lifetime and you would only need to replace it in case of change in taste.
Where do you see yourself as a company in the next ten years?
In ten years, Gonzala Leathers will be a multinational company that will have 3 faces: a mass production house for other brands, a production house for custom goods and a craft training facility that will give opportunity and priority to the less fortunate in society in an effort to eradicate poverty.