Real Leather. Stay Different. announces the judging panel for its first competition in Africa

Meet the judges: Preston Viswamo, Teklemariam Gebrehiwot, Judy Maina and Tezera Ketema

Real Leather. Stay Different. announces the judging panel for its first competition in Africa

21st July 2023

Real Leather. Stay Different. in partnership with Africa Leather and Leather Products Institute (ALLPI) and the Leather & Hide Council of America (L&HCA) has announced its judging panel for the highly anticipated African Talent Leather Design Showcase 2023 (African Design Showcase 2023). Preston Viswamo, Regional Design Studio Project Manager at ALLPI, expert leather products technologist Teklemariam Gebrehiwot, celebrated designer Judy Mania and the Co Founder of, Tezera Ketema have been selected to form the competition’s inaugural panel.

Heading up the panel is ALLPI’s Preston Viswamo, with over 25 years experience working within the leather, NGO, and education sectors. He is accompanied by award-winning leather footwear design and technology specialist Tezera Ketema and Teklemariam Gebrehiwot, a seasoned leather products technologist and craftsman with 44 years of industry experience spanning leather products design and manufacturing, adding his vast knowledge to the judging panel. Judy Mania, the visionary founder and CEO of Saifu Leather based in Nairobi, Kenya, is a true creative force, renowned for her unwavering commitment to the principles of circular economy and her passion for ethical and sustainable fashion, her presence ensures entries align with the values of innovation, sustainability and social responsibility.

This diverse and accomplished group of professionals bring a wealth of experience and expertise from Africa’s burgeoning leather industry, and beyond. The competition’s objective is to unearth and showcase the best of Africa’s creative talent whilst promoting sustainable designs that are crafted from leather and other natural materials, while emphasizing durability and minimal environmental impact.

The Real Leather. Stay Different. (RLSD) African Design Showcase 2023 is open to forward thinking designers who are interested in contributing to the fight against fast fashion. To encourage thinking about our planet’s future and to combat waste, the competition challenges entrants to craft original, innovative and visually stunning designs made from 50% leather or more, in one of three categories – apparel, accessories and footwear. The judging panel will select up to five submissions  from each category. The shortlisted participants, along with the winner of the People’s Choice Award, will have the opportunity to bring their designs to life at any of ALLPI’s satellite studios. After which, these beautifully crafted items will take center stage in the RLSD African Talent Leather Design Showcase, where the participants will be presented with a certificate and five RLSD branded Coffee Table Books showcasing the competition’s remarkable works. 

Among the curated selections, one design will earn a coveted spot in a capsule collection showcasing the best international talent. The competition is accepting entries until August 4th.

Preston Viswamo has work experience that spans over 25 years, he has acquired skills and knowledge from a variety of industries, including leather, NGO and education sectors. His proficiency covers leather value chains, cluster development and management. It also spans footwear design, production technology and vegetable (organic) leather technology. He has experience in NGO management, tertiary education management, and micro enterprise/microfinance programmes.


Teklemariam Gebrehiwot is a professionally qualified and experienced leather products technologist and leather craftsman. With more than 44 years of experience in the industry. His extensive knowledge and skills cover leather products design and manufacturing, such as leather goods and garments. He is an effective and efficient production and technical manager, quality manager,

training instructor, and technical consultant. He educates various public, private leather product enterprises and training institutions related to leather and leather products.


Judy Mania is the founder and CEO of Siafu Leather, a bespoke leather manufacturing company based in Nairobi, Kenya. She is an incredibly creative designer with a passion for circular economy, ethical and sustainable fashion. She showcases her interests through her production house. Judy also engages with the audience physically in meetings, round tables, and through her online writings on various media platforms.


Tezera Ketema, an Ethiopian residing between Ethiopia and Canada, has primarily devoted his adult life to the leather industry, with a particular focus on footwear design and technology. In 2005, he founded Podo Pal, and the company was selected to design, manufacture, and supply parade boots for the Canadian Winter Olympic and Paralympic Team in 2006, held in Turin, Italy. The Team was named the best-dressed of the 2006 Winter Olympics, and the company was consequently awarded the Hudson Bay Company Premier National Partner Award and the Canadian Olympic Committee’s Award.

To access further information about the competition, including entry requirements, please click here to learn more about the showcase.