Diomande Memdou got into shoemaking at the age of 12, as avid basketball player he had to repair the wear and tear on his one pair of trainers. We didn’t have money for new shoes, so i taught myself how to fix them, and i started helping other people repair their shoes. Then one day i thought what if I made pair for myself.
He soon discovered a passion for making shoes. There was no shoemaking school, i gathered knowledge from people who work with leather and found my own way.
A native of Côte d’Ivoire, ‘i made a choice to come here. I wanted to discover my continent.’ He arrived in South Africa in 1998, at the age of 28 he struggled to get his shoemaking business running. He had no start-up capital and, as a French speaker, he knew materials by their french names.
In 1999 Diomande was born. ‘I saved up until i got some money to make sandals. I rented a garage for storage and started making shoes in my room.
Making quality shoes takes time. i don't do mass - produce. My shoes are handmade, with 100% leather - the lining, the top, everything is leather.
Diomande now counts Morgan freeman, Leonardo diCaprio and Orlando Bloom among his customers. he met Morgan on the set of invictus when he was making shoes for Mandela’s character in the film. Morgan gave Leonardo his details and he, in turn, gave his details to Orlando.
‘Orlando was very friendly. he looked at my shoes, and he said “Wow, this one i like. i want you to make these boots for me, in black and navy.” We discussed the price and i said, “if you buy the leather for me. I’ll give you a good price,” i gave him the address for my leather supplier and he went and bought the leather for me.
Then my wife looked at him and said to me, “This guy, i think i know him.” When i described him, my daughter showed me a picture of him in a magazine. I didn't know he was famous.’ He ended up buying two pairs and his bodyguard also bought a pair.