N’intoki, bespoke handbag line speaking in EA tongues

Friday May 14 2021
N'intoki bag made in Rwanda.

N'intoki bag made in Rwanda. PHOTO | GILBERT MWIJUKE | NMG


East Africans can now own handbags that speak their language and relate with their environment, thanks to a new upmarket handbag maker based in Kigali, who makes bespoke women and men’s bags from local materials.

The bags and accessories line called N’intoki, (meaning “with fingers” or with hands in Kinyarwanda) to signify these bags are handmade by local artisans using locally sourced materials in Rwanda.

Started in 2017 and rebranded in 2019, the N’intoki brand are playing in a regional market dominated by global luxury brands Gucci, Hermes, Louis Vuitton for those who can afford them.

N’intoki handbags target the upper-middle class and upper income people, with the least expensive bag going for $45 and the most expensive going for $200.

Although for long the global accessories and handbag market has proved impenetrable, and with few or no local alternative competitors with competitive prices, quality and quantities, N’intoki has taken a crack at this market.

Raw materials source


All the raw materials, from leather, brass, cow horns, beadwork, are sourced from Rwanda, save for the hardware which is got from Italy, after which the bags are produced by a team of local artisans and other leather experts some of whom started at Tapestry, a parent company to Kate Spade.

The bespoke handbag line is a fusion of Rwandan influence and top quality, creating elegance and practicality, appealing to a variety of customers.

The handbags speak regional languages too, because they bear names such Jambo (Hello), Weebale (Thank you), Kwaheri, (goodbye) Ki kati (What’s up), Mwirirwe (Have a good day), Ndi musanyufu (I am happy), written on some of the handbags.

Some are given names of places in Rwanda and around the region, for instance one of them is called the Ruhengero bag. The bags can be found in shops in Kigali, Nairobi and online.