Hilton Mutariswa, the man behind Billione Rikko, a brand specialising in leather design shoes, comes from a family with a long history in the African leather trade.
For generations, the Mutariswas owned a tannery, producing handmade leather goods. With the heritage and a lifelong love affair with fashion, Mutariswa has always dreamt of creating his own luxury brand and today, he is the owner of Billione Rikko.
He tells us the story behind his brand name and what it’s like working with the stars such as Nigerian musician Davido, Somizi Mhlongo and American boxer Floyd Mayweather.
Hilton Mutariswa, founder of Billione Rikko.
Billione Rikko is quite a striking name. How did the name come about?
One night while on a trip back to Zimbabwe, I was in a bar with friends when a drunken old man held court telling stories of his glorious past.
He told of how as a young man, his father taught him how to make shoes in Le Marche, central Italy.
He spoke about how he traveled around the world and had ended up in Zimbabwe. That he made friends with a Zimbabwean man who made leather goods and how they bonded over their shared love of fine craftsmanship and became lifelong friends.
As the old man filled in the details of his story, it occurred to me that the man he had befriended was, in fact, my grandfather. Before leaving, I asked the old man his name to which he replied: “My name is Billione Rikko”. Something in that story struck a chord with me and when it came to creating my own label, I knew exactly what it would be called.
Your designs are mostly ostrich skin, why specifically that?
We choose ostrich skin for BR ONE as we wanted to utilise our African routes in our brand. Our shoes are made in Italy and the tanneries in Italy sourced their ostrich skin from South Africa.
Snow white; Billione Rikko sneakers.
Another reason was we wanted to provide a brand that can offer exotic skins and maintain the elegance and desirability of our products. Luxury brands are no longer caring about originality or genuine exotic skins, they use printed skins and at worst, plastic.
You’ve worked with big stars such as Mayweather, Davido and Somizi; what was it like to work with such big names?
In all honesty, I would say it’s been a humbling experience. All these big names are extremely wonderful people. I have been blessed to have met them let alone produce some bespoke shoes for them.
We look forward to working with a lot more in the future.
Musician, Davido has worked with Hilton Mutariswa. Picture: Instagram.
Out of all the stars you’ve worked with, which one was your favourite and why?
Oh that is a very difficult question. I really enjoyed all of them. Some had protocol some didn’t. Davido was so loving and the most humble person I have ever met. He works so hard. Somizi joked a lot, was very bubbly and filled the whole room with laughter and joy.
Speaking of Somizi, one of South Africa’s most loved entertainers, tell us a bit about your experience with him:
Somizi is a breath of fresh air. He bounces off some good energy.
He is genuine and passionate. His response to our presentation was very good, but we anticipated this as our products are of high quality. He, however, superseded our expectations.
I would definitely relive the moments we as a brand experienced with Somizi.
Moving forward, which other celebrity would you like to work with?
I am really looking forward to working with P Diddy, Naomi Campbell, Chris Brown, TIWA Savage our African Queen, Bonang, AKA and the list goes on.
You were in South African not so long ago for Africa’s most anticipated fashion event, the Vodacom Durban July. How is the fashion reception in the UK different from that in Africa?
The UK is a market that is laid back. Its market focuses on other things than fashion unless you are in London where individuals are more diverse and fashion conscious.
The African market desires luxury goods and at times cannot access them even when they are affordable and this makes it even more attractive when the desired product becomes accessible within their community.
Most customers resort to travelling abroad to countries such as Dubai etc.
Seeing that the African market desires luxury goods, what’s next for your luxury brand?
I am now on a mission to launch my brand in South Africa and Nigeria simultaneously after almost 10 years trying to get to this point.
I also want more presence in a few boutique stores around the world.
Connect with Hilton Mutariswa on his Instagram page @billionerikko.