About Us / Our Story
We want to share our leather bound story with you. From our passion for design creativity, to our rich African heritage, to the people who transform 100% soft, genuine leather into the finest collection of footwear, handbags and accessories for you to enjoy. Kwasuka Sukela (Zulu = Listen, the story is about to start).
The journey began in the late 1990s when cheap imported footwear flooded the South African market, forcing many shoe manufacturers to close their doors.
Tsonga’s founder, Peter Maree, who at the time already had two decades of experience in the industry, embraced the challenge. He saw an opportunity for a niche market in high-quality leather footwear with a uniquely African style and the comfort that only hand-stitching can provide.
With a team of top international designers and skilled technicians already in place, Peter set out to find the unique hand-stitching skills that would be the signature of Tsonga Footwear for years to come.
“I wanted to create a range of shoes and handbags, inspired by Africa. The hand-stitching skills of the women of the village of Lidgetton, close to my home in South Africa, are renowned. I thought that together we could create something quite unique and wonderful”.
Today, in the heart of the kingdom of the Zulu in South Africa, there are inspiring stories of success to be told. Transformed from an old abandoned school building, The Thread of Hope farm became the training centre where many from the local rural community were given the opportunity to learn skills in the manufacture of leather footwear. For many years, it was a place where women gathered and conversation flowed to the rhythm of the work.
Peter Maree's long-term vision of creating empowerment, of change through business and not hand-outs, has been embraced by Alpheus, who through a mentorship programme under Peter's wing, has been entrusted to carry on the hand-stitching legacy of our footwear.
He has become a role model for many, fondly called "Ubuntu" by those around him.
With the hand-stitched promise of our footwear taken care of by Alpheus and in the skilled hands of the community, the Thread of Hope farm is now home to a new level of skills development.
We invite you to visit and witness the transformation of some of the world's finest leathers into a collection of handbags and accessories worthy of the shelves of the finest boutiques.
With the distinguished smell of leather in the air, the warm community hospitality and the irresistible charm of our Italian designer and his protégé, you may be forgiven for one or two indulgences at the home of our very first Tsonga store.