Tucked into an industrial building in Industria North, this place is probably one of Joburg’s better-kept secrets. For luxury addicts, Via La Moda’s showroom is a must-stop on any Johannesburg itinerary offering up an enormous array of finely crafted handbags and other leather accessories in a glorious arrangement of vibrant colours, shapes and textures (said to be the largest display on the African continent).
From handbags to purses, and leather belts, each item is made with care and precision, and stitched in the pristine workshop overseen by Austrian-born designer Hanspeter Winklmayr.
We had the rare privilege to be invited “backstage” to see the inner workings of Via La Moda’s production line. Rooms filled with ostrich and crocodile leather hides dyed in brilliant colours, a rainbow display of zips, tools for handling leatherware perfectly arrayed at each workstation and cutting dyes hung up along the walls displaying intricate patterns more likely to be associated with artwork than the labour of creating a luxury handbag.
The leather materials used are ethically sourced and at each work station the focused process of creating a luxury product is evident from the patience displayed for precise and painstaking work. Winklmayr displays an attitude of reverence for the materials he works with. Each skin is individually treated and the manufacturing process ensures that every piece of material is used.
Winklmayr is hands-on in the process, wearing a sleeveless work coat and presiding over the entire process of creating these unique items. He arrived in South Africa in the late 1980's attracted by opportunity, and a desire to put his degree in fine leather craft and design to good use. The brand he has built up over this time combines modern technologies with traditional crafting techniques resulting in covetable handbags and accessories that fit a wide range of budgets. If you do happen to meet him, he is also an excellent resource for where to find Joburg’s best restaurants.
Most refreshing is that this homegrown South African luxury brand revels in producing unique designs which are frequently updated, making many pieces collector’s items as quality is prized over quantity.
The Via La Moda stable also includes Via Veneta, a fashionable range of bags and accessories using less pricey leathers, which means you might even have to buy more than one.