Family-owned business Cape Cobra produces artisanal leathercraft from sustainable sources and is today Africa’s largest exporter of luxury exotic leather goods.

Established in 1972, Cape Cobra Leathercraft is Africa’s largest exporter of luxury exotic leather goods, established under late family patriarch Lothar Schäfer. Today, the brand sustainably farms Nile Crocodile, Ostrich, and Python skins into timeless pieces in a variety of vibrant colours and styles.

Lothar Schafer honed his skills in maroquinerie in his native Offenbach, Germany, during the 1950s. Travels to Egypt would bring him to meet his future wife Denise, of Frano-Italian and Lebanese descent. Together, they embarked upon a journey down the continent, bringing classical European skills and influence along with them.

In Cape Town, the family built a business set to last generations. Today, the family oversee over 80 South African artisans and continue to instil the unwavering quality, pursuit of beauty and age-old traditions of the handcraft brought to them all by Lothar and Denise.

3rd generation family member and Cape Cobra Creative Director Justine Schäfer oversees the business today. “Cape Cobra is all about family”, says Justine. “We’re about heritage, artisanal skills, craftsmanship, and quality. We teach all our staff in house – it’s all about empowering them and showing them that we can create a quality product right here in South Africa”.

Manufacturing an exotic leather handbag is an intricate and timely process, not only because it is handmade, but also because each skin is unique in its patterns, scale composition and scars. Cape Cobra’s materials are sourced sustainably, and locally.

Colin Furlong has worked at Cape Cobra for 46 years and is regarded as a master cutter, and was first brought into the business as a teenager under Lothar Schäfer. Colin serves a variety of roles across and production line, and further designs products – remarking that “It’s in my blood”. 

At Cape Cobra, specialist artisans respectfully preserve the natural beauty of the skin and allocate them to specific designs. Allowing the perfect culmination of design and detail. No piece will ever be the same and that is what gives exotic leather products their luxurious allure.

Robert Schäfer, Cape Cobra’s Manager Director, oversees an expanding product line – from handbags to sneakers.

“What’s very important for South Africa”, says Robert, is to take what we are blessed with, and in a managed process, beneficiate it, and produce something that can compete with our equals in Europe, can be exported, and can create jobs”.

“What gives Cape Cobra Leathercraft’s pieces their elegance and depth is poetry of the past combined with meticulous moments spent in the present, concentrating on elevating the raw materials available today”, adds Robert.

With a long legacy of manufacturing bags for luxury fashion houses around the world, Cape Cobra seeks the work of exceptional artisans for their own. Their in-house brand’s offer an eloquent expression in the art of eternal style and continues to sell to South Africans from their show house in Bree Street, Cape Town, and on the world stage.