Hanneli Rupert: WEF Young Global Leader, Fashion Entrepreneur
Hanneli Rupert is a fashion entrepreneur who has launched her own South African luxury handbag brand, which is called ‘Okapi’. Daughter of Johann Rupert, who is a luxury goods mogul, and Gaynor Rupert, who successful racehorse breeder, Hanneli seems like a very down-to-earth, charming person, who deeply loves South Africa and doesn’t hide her true passion for African fashion.
She grew up in Cape Town, where she got accustomed to a laid-back, casual style: ‘Cape Town is really laid back. I had a pair of cowboy boots which I wore for 10 years – I still have them – and flip-flops are a staple. Nobody ever wears high heels. It’s almost considered tacky‘, she says! She moved to London at 18, in order to study at the Wimbledon College fo Art, all the while trying to figure out London’s various dress codes, and afterwards relocated to Athens, where she started working at an art gallery, while also producing her own art.
Her style remains relaxed, and she’s a fan of oversized blazers, and frequents H&M, Chloé, Zara, Donna Ida, Equipment and James Perse stores.
Back in 2008 she decided to move back to Africa, where she launched her handbag brand, Okapi. The name derives from a kind of African antelope, and her handbag line is entirely made and sourced in Africa. ‘I wanted to create pieces that were one-offs, made from organic, locally- and sustainably-sourced material,” she says. “I’ve always loved horn, but I looked at what I could use that was a bi-product‘, Hanneli told Telegraph UK.
She also opened a store in Cape Town on 2010, called ‘Merchants on Long’, which is now one of the hottest shopping spots in town! Instead of using it to only house her own brand, as she initially intended, she decided to use it as a retail center for Africa’s best authentic luxury brands. The space is located in a not so upscale area of the city, next to a KFC, but Hanneli feels that she is taking part in a movement that is just picking up speed, which will redesign and redefine the entire city.
We love that she tries to incorporate a little bit of Africa in everything she designs, and that her work turns local artisan crafts into marketable objects. We also appreciate the fact that, despite her privileged upbringing, she is the kind of girl who will wear a skirt from H&M until it falls apart before replacing it. Her sustainable sourcing and ethical m.o. really appeal to us, as well as to the millennials’ generation, who love hearing about the stories of their favorite products’ makers – and are usually very appreciative to the fact that their purchases actually help improve the lives of those who need supporting the most!