Spotting a black caftan, Pere Lei strolled into the venue of our photoshoot. In his gentle yet firm voice we exchanged pleasantries. Perhaps, he looked too clean and soft for his kind of business, but Lei could be described as a master craftsman.
His finely crafted leather pieces are made of the finest array of colour textures and skins.
“The brand was born out of the need for finely finished leather goods produced locally,” he tells me. “From inception, it was apparent the need for inculcating world-class standards within the local leather goods market.”
Currently, the brand is engaged in the production of items such as bags, shoes, accessories and corporate souvenirs and other gifts. It prides itself on passionately creating world-class leather goods locally.
The Pere Lei brand was born out of a need; someone wanted a quality exotic skin iPad 2 as a gift. “I ended up sourcing the skin,” recalls Lei, “and capable hands to create the gift. On completion my sister admired the colour and style of leather and noted that it would make for the perfect clutch.
“Again, my capable hands put together a clutch and after a night out, I got calls from four of her friends inquiring about purses. Just to get them off my back I told them it would cost more but they didn’t relent. Instead they wired me the funds one after the other. At that point I knew I was on to something.”
Essentially, the brand is about leather goods as the use of leather allows him high degree of versatility to cater to different functions, clientele and events.
From leather locally sourced from Kano, full grain Italian to the more exotic farmed crocodilian, Lei has created many exceptional designs. “We would like to use more locally sourced leather,” he says frankly, “from local tanneries that churn out the kind of quality our clienteles are used to; but we find that local tanneries deal primarily in semi processed for export. A challenge we are already getting around.”
Functionality has always been at the forefront of Lei’s creations. However, his inspiration comes from different directions. Other times, his designs are fully or partly informed by the function of the creation. Lei creates quite a lot of private collections for his exclusive collectors. He works with them to bring their visions to reality.
One of his iconic collections is the 2018 Efi Lake Series inspired by the Efi Lake and all that is needed for a fishing trip or getaway to the lake. The collection includes duffle bags and a number of lavish accessories to make such a getaway comfortable. It also consists of tough no-nonsense bridle leather to withstand the terrain.
“Whatever it is, we take the entire story into consideration. This in turn inspires the type of leather, colours, accent fabric we use, right here in our factory,” he explains.
With a strong presence in Lagos Lei is fast expanding his client base in Delta, Abuja and Bayelsa.
“Our brand has been well received,” he says. “We are blessed with the most amazing clients who share our values and essence. This has truly made all the difference as they strongly advocate for us.”
The Pere Lei brand has often been misconstrued as Italian. Actually, it is a name with an Ijaw root. Pere means king in the Ijaw language. “Initially, we dealt with a misconception about our products being foreign but that in itself speaks volumes about the quality of work and level of creativity being in put into every Pere Lei piece,” he explains.
Lei targets mainly senior executives with a deep appreciation for well-made locally leather goods. These are decision makers who are well-travelled and have a keen understanding of what quality truly looks and feels like. He also gets business from corporate organisations seeking high quality goods to appreciate their staff, customers and partners.
Lei has a new addition to his business, bespoke interior décor for cars. A line he started after ripping a customer’s faux leather seat while forcing a large box into the car.
“Luckily, I had the exact shade of leather in stock and replaced the ripped seat,” he explains. “Before long, they asked to have the entire interior done in leather. And now over the last three years we have dabbled into doing a number of custom car interior and upholstery projects.” Now, he is set to launch a separate business to focus solely on automobiles.
He currently operates an online store, perelei.com, which he is set to re-launch with a promise of an increase in the product categories. “We currently have a white label service that creates pieces for other brands hence some items don’t necessarily carry Pere Lei labels. Once the relaunch is done, our agreements with local and international retailers come into play in full effect.”
Lei who loves to dream has a bachelors’ degree in Business Economics and business IT management and a Masters in Marketing Communications from the University of Westminster. He loves to play tennis.
His prices reflect the time, design and quality he puts into creating every product.
“Every item is handcrafted and is created with passion. Great attention to detail is emphasized in the precision of every stitch,” he says.