The vision behind Okapi is to produce luxurious, artisanal handbags and accessories entirely handmade in South Africa from locally sourced materials. A simple approach to creating honest and sustainable job opportunities and skills growth locally.
Lewis is a leading Magento agency that specialises in the fashion, lifestyle and luxury markets of online retail.
Okapi is a brand in the vanguard of the emerging African luxury market. At the heart of its identity is the re-generative power of nature Africa represents. Founder Hanelli Rupert approached Soho-based Lewis because she wanted a European interpretation of a luxury brand for Okapi’s global e-commerce site.
As a South African based company there was a particular requirement that the site would be split into a dedicated South African store with all pricing in Rand and a Rest of World store for the global export market which supported multiple currencies.
As part of the creative brief, Hanelli asked Lewis to avoid colonial influences. After a period of detailed design consultation the team took their cue from her references to African mysticism, magic, myth and voodoo.
From the start, Lewis were also sensitive to the potential conflict at the heart of the project: with all the social problems that beset Africa, what relevance can the concept of “African Luxury” carry? They tackled this head-on by incorporating the ethos of sustainable and traceable materials, ethical manufacturing, job creation and skill development at the core of the brand’s identity.
The final output was a brand with roots in Africa’s ancient past: the majesty of the landscape, the abundance of natural materials and the unique skill of native artisans. This was woven throughout the entire site from the use of photography, UX, the product display and copy.
For the technical delivery the split site was built on Magento, the feature-rich open source e-commerce platform that Lewis have deployed extensively for a variety of luxury brands. While many e-commerce agencies would assume that a server in the company’s country of origin would be of primary importance when selecting a hosting provider, Lewis were convinced that Wirehive were the right people to help Okapi with the infrastructure required to support this vision.
They introduced them into the client and after getting to grips with the project Wirehive built Okapi a dedicated virtual server which meant they didn’t need to invest in any hardware but still had the uncontended resources of a physical server. As Okapi don’t have any in-house hosting experts they took Wirehive’s managed support offering which means that all monitoring and alerts are dealt with on their behalf.
Wirehive also work proactively with Okapi and Lewis to ensure the site continues to enjoy optimum performance, essential for a great end-user experience and ultimately, online sales. The majority of the products are bought in Africa but global exports remain strong: in fact Net-a-Porter now stock Okapi, proof that this pioneering brand has made it in mainstream luxury fashion. As a project that gives as it receives, this is good news for all who are involved in this new market.
“Working on a new brand is always an exciting experience. All of us at Lewis were very invested in this project. Just as we were delighted that Okapi trusted a UK based agency to interpret their brand online, we felt confident that Wirehive were the right partner to deliver the hosting for Okapi. We were happy to make the introduction, trusting in their Magento experience and consultative approach. Everyone is delighted with the end result.”
Paul Lewis Founder, Lewis
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