Masoka Dube

By Masoka Dube


Gauteng leather craftsman is a sole man

Gauteng's Ike Lekgoro, a rising force in fashion, transforms from leather craftsman to sought-after sneaker designer.

Gauteng-based fashion designer Ike Lekgoro is a force to be reckoned with – he’s a leather craftsman who is now designing fashionable sneakers.

Lekgoro, 38, launched his leather products business about eight years ago. But it’s growing so fast he now has a factory in Limpopo and is establishing new business ventures on the East Rand to cater for the needs of his clients in Joburg and surrounding areas.

He went from making handbags, jackets and belts to negotiating with well-known clothing brands that will hopefully “see me designing sneakers for them. And that is what I will focus on at my new branch in Edenvale. Sneakers are in demand”.

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“I started the branch about five months ago but it has already attracted many clients who want to wear unique and personalised brands,” he says.

His Edenvale branch, where he works with the assistance of a few young men he is mentoring, produces more than two pairs of genuine leather shoes a day.

The Polokwane branch comprises three people and several parttime employees who produce several items daily.

Humble beginnings

The designer was born and bred in Ga-Nchabeleng village, Limpopo. His brand is known as Tlotlego Handcrafts. Self-taught, Lekgoro says starting his sewing business was not easy as he failed many times before getting it right.

“The business started about eight years ago when I was operating in my parents’ yard. I was sewing using my hands as I did not have the capital to buy a sewing machine. The hard part was that no-one taught me and I did not have a mentor.”

Before he became a designer, he worked as a graphic designer for a small accounting firm in Limpopo. “There, I managed to accumulate the funds I needed to start my business.

It was a painful experience as I used to buy the material and waste it because I didn’t know what I was doing. “But I persevered because few people produce hand-crafted material in the fashion industry,” he says.

Through his work, Lekgoro has visited many countries, including the Ivory Coast, Dubai, France and the US, to display his products and established contacts.

But exporting his creations is not on the cards, despite international interest because of the small number of items he makes. “If we can get a bigger machine we will be able to increase our output and can then tackle exports.

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This can create more than 50 jobs and we’ll be able to produce about 100 items a day.

“My overseas contacts are mainly warehouses, so before approaching them we must know we have an operation that can produce what they need. I need an investor who will buy into this vision.”

His humble beginnings started with a sewing machine the Greater Sekhukhune district municipality donated to him – but Covid nearly sank this venture.

“I was forced to close down. I never thought I would be able to operate again, but I am happy I am back and booming again.”

He says what Covid did teach him was to sell his products online as “people were too panicked to come and buy in person”.

The father of two grew up in a family that loves business, which fuelled his passion further.

“Everyone at home is a businessperson so it’s in my veins. When we were young, my parents used to encourage us to start businesses. I don’t see myself ever working for other people,” says Lekgoro.

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