Gabriel Anzala Ogombo started what would become Gonzala Leathers in 2009. It was a “project to satisfy clients who wanted things replicated”. Usually these were people who had a favourite bag that was getting old or a design they wanted in a different material. Four years later, having realised the potential for his business, Gabriel invested in machinery and set up a workshop.
You can now find designs from Gonzala Leathers in the Blue Rhino shops, the APDK shop on Waiyaki Way and Goodies at Viking House, Westlands. Or you can order directly from Gonzala Leathers by calling or visiting the workshop in Santack Estate. The company also produces custom orders for corporate clients. Impressive in itself, it is even more so when you hear the road Gabriel travelled to this point.
Gabriel grew up in Kakamega. He was only able to do his O-levels after he received a scholarship from the church. After completing his secondary education with no clear plan for the future, he came to visit his brother in Nairobi. In Nairobi, by pure chance, he was sponsored to do a vocational training course in industrial sewing. Who sponsored him? “My brother’s boss, neighbour,” he explains with a laugh. From there Gabriel found a job with Annabelle Thom. Here, employed as a fundi, he learnt leatherwork.
While working at Annabelle Thom, Gabriel discovered his passion for leatherwork. He would buy “cheap materials” and practise designing at home. So intent was he to develop his skills that he left his job to focus on training himself: “I would go on the internet to see how things were done”.
Three-odd years later Gabriel had developed his skills enough to be hired, by Rift Valley Leather, as a designer. In 2013 he left employment again, this time to focus on Gonzala Leathers.