Erin-Lee Petersen used to be a radio journo reading the traffic reports on GoodHope FM’s breakfast show.
Being a freelancer, she supplemented her income with a job as a part-time sales assistant at designer clothing store, Paul Smith.
‘I was there for three years, then moved to Apsley, where they sell shoes and handbags by luxury brands like Bottega Veneta, Céline and Christian Louboutin.’
Erin-Lee has always loved bags, and began to wonder why South Africa wasn’t producing the same high-quality, high-end products.
‘I tried to find manufacturers that could make the product I wanted and couldn’t,’ she says. So she decided to buy off-cuts from leather factories and try to make them herself.
Her boyfriend (now husband and business partner) Chad, an industrial designer, urged her to watch YouTube videos to learn the craft.
‘We’d sit and watch Japanese craftsmanship videos. With time, our stitching improved.’
Chad also suggested they use computer-aided design (CAD) software to laser-cut the leather.
In 2011, the couple applied to showcase at the Design Indaba’s Emerging Creatives initiative: Erin-Lee with her leather goods and Chad with his furniture.
‘I didn’t get in, but Chad did. I went along and put five cardholders I’d made on the tables on display. That weekend I went home with 80 orders; Chad had two! He was like, ‘We&rsqu