Shopping in Cape Town: fashion and contemporary design

by vickisleet

Far from being a sleepy city in the south of Africa, Cape Town is most certainly a ‘watch this space’ place. In fact, we’re on a mission to become the World Design Capital in 2014

A major change for Cape Town over the past few years has been the creation of a unique design style in fashion, contemporary arts and furniture circles. Before, the tendency of many a young designer was to look to Europe for influence and inspiration.

We have stalwarts like Klûk CGDT (Portside Centre, Green Point Main Road; 083 377 7780; www.kluk.com) to thank for this change – fashion slaves, visit this store in Greenpoint for feminine off-the-peg and always on-trend offerings for any occasion. Another trendsetter who’s doing her own things is Swedish designer Alexandra Hojer whose eponymous store is in the Lifestyle Centre on Kloof Street (Lifestyles on Kloof, 50 Kloof Street, Gardens; 021 422 4149; www.alexandrahojer.com.) – she’s definitely a name on the lips of the city’s It girls thanks to her flattering, floaty offerings. Local fashion chameleon, David West has recently joined forces with fellow shapeshifters furniture label Doktor and Misses at a new concept store David West Dokter and Misses (113 Long Street; 021 801 4733; www.davidwest.co.za.) in Long Street where furniture and fashion meet in a thoroughly modern marriage. You’ll find lean-lined must haves for the modern home and deconstructed clothing with a noughties dandy edge.

Local fashion talents

I’m a big fan of The Space (Cavendish Square, Cavendish Street, Claremont; 021 674 6643; www.thespace.co.za.), not only because it’s so proudly South African with rail after rail of seasonal fashions by some of our best independent designers but because the small runs mean I’m unlikely to see many other people in the same outfit at a party. 

When on Long Street, be sure to pop into Mungo & Jemima (108 Long Street; 021 424 5016; www.mungoandjemima.com.), another champion of local fashion design where the local fashion pack arrives en masse come restocking day. Across the road is edgy boutique MeMeMe (117a Long Street; 021 424 0001; www.mememe.co.za.) with its street-meets-glam style while all the way at the top of Long Street is Misfit (278 Long Street; 021 422 5646; www.misfit.co.za.), a hub of edgy streetwear and flouncy flirty frocks.

Buy design

I’m a traveller who invariably comes home with suitcases full of design-led stuff (from stationery to ceramics and little knick knacks I can’t refuse) and Cape Town has loads to feed any similar fetishes. Imagenius (117 Long Street; 021 423 7870; www.imagenius.co.za.) is a really good bet for unusual buys with its handpicked selection of local ceramics, jewellery and homeware, and imported quirky finds. Church (12 Spin Street; 086 501 3381; www.thepresident.co.za) is a new concept store in the central business district that changes its design and focus every few months - at the moment it’s a wood-clad space featuring piñatas and old fashioned soda siphons sourced in Argentina. If you’re a ceramics nut (I am), I couldn’t recommend a visit to Liesel Trautmann’s (114 Lower Main Road, Observatory; 073 2759 494; www.lieseltrautman.co.za.) studio and shop in Observatory highly enough. Her work is sought after all over the world and her motifs of local animals and flora make them very much representative of contemporary Cape Town.

If you’re in the market for larger SA designed pieces, visit Field Office (37 Barrack Street; 021 461 4599; www.fieldoffice.co.za.) for artisanal coffee and a chance to view work by young guns Pedersen + Lennard who showcase their flat-pack furniture here (they ship all over the world in case anything appeals).

Furniture and art finds

Lovers of design should head for Haldane Martin’s (12 Aberdeen Street, Woodstock; 021 448 0999; www.haldanemartin.co.za.) showroom in Woodstock to see his Afro-influenced modern furniture designs, while if contemporary art is your bag, I’d highly recommend popping into the What if the World Gallery (First Floor, 208 Albert Road, Woodstock; 021 448 1438; www.whatiftheworld.com.). The achingly hip Michael Stevenson Contemporary (Buchanan Building, 160 Sir Lowry Road,Woodstock; 021 462 1500; www.michaelstevenson.com.) gallery space is well worth a visit as is the nearby Goodman Gallery (176 Sir Lowry Road, Woodstock; 021 462 7573; www.goodman-gallery.com). The latter two are situated on a stretch of Woodstock that has now become an arty hub.

After you’ve ogled the latest exhibition works why not pop across the road to The Kitchen (Sir Lowry Road, Woodstock; 021 462 2201; www.karendudley.co.za.), the lair of lovely local Karen Dudley, where moreish homestyle eats with a Mediterranean edge are served on mismatched crockery (their honey roasted pork sausage ciabatta sandwiches are ridiculously delicious).

More expert advice on Cape Town

For suggestions on where to stay in Cape Town, see my Cape Town Hotels – Award winning expert hotel reviews, from cheap to luxury hotels in Cape Town page.

Read my overview on Shopping in Cape Town.

vickisleet

I am a freelance lifestyle journalist and editor, and write for the likes of Time Out Cape Town, Eat Out, Eat In, Food & Travel UK and British Airways Horizons amongst others.

I also edit a blog www.iwantthat.co.za that regularly features exciting places to see in Cape Town. I have been writing for a living for the past ten years, prior to which I was involved in the food industry.

I’m a born and bred Capetonian and though I’ve lived and worked overseas and have travelled to many different cities, there is certainly no place like Cape Town AKA the Mother City – a place I like to call ‘the Mama of all Cities’. And when you see the plethora of breathtaking beaches, taste the new world wines, dine at the world class restaurants and bed down in some of the top notch hotels, I’m certain you’ll agree.

In recent years, Cape Town’s become a design and shopping hub too, so once you’ve sipped some local wines, scraped your plate clean, dusted the beach sand off your feet and popped up to the top of Table Mountain –spend some time at some of the city’s contemporary art galleries and interesting independent craft and design shops and see if you can find the perfect memento of your Cape Town trip. I thank my lucky stars daily that my work involves seeing, tasting and testing in the city’s shops, restaurants and hotels – and I love sharing my discoveries.

My Cape Town

Where I always grab a coffee/tea/hot chocolate: While the Vida é Caffe dark hot chocolate really does it for me (and if I drank coffee I’d probably join the ranks of regulars who’re hooked) I’m a Melissa’s The Food Shop hot chocolate gal through and through. They’re a milky confection of melted chocolate-hazelnut paste and the perfect accompaniment for a me-time magazine-filled morning.

Books for inspiration: Quivertree Publishing’s Hot Afro is a visual feast of many a South African (many of them Capetonian) home and offers eye candy and insight into local style.

Where to be seen this summer: Built for the FIFA World Cup held in 2010, the three-kilometre long fan mile takes people from the central business district to the magnificent Cape Town Stadium and its park-like surrounds - from here it’s a short stroll to the six-kilometre long Sea Point Promenade, where locals and visitors alike take in the sparkling Atlantic views, indulge in ice creams, join impromptu soccer games on the lawns or eye out the 'Walking the Road' statues installation currently based here.

The most breathtaking view: Unless the weather’s terrible or you have a really good excuse, going up to the top of Table Mountain is a must. Take the easy route up and down via the cable car or if you’re fit, the Platteklip Gorge hike will take around two hours - either way the views of the city and the Cape Peninsula are spellbinding.

My favourite stroll:  On the Atlantic Seaboard side, the Sea Point Promenade with its blue rinse grannies walking their dogs, bronzed adonises sweating up a storm on their daily jogs and mums pushing their charges in their buggies, there's never a dull moment and did I mention the beautiful sea views on this kilometres-long stretch? On the other side of the mountain is the Muizenberg-St James catwalk - a shortish catwalk with breathtaking views of False Bay. if i'm in the city for a meeting - if I have time, a leisurely stroll through The Company's Garden always has a restorative effect.

Best spot for some peace and quiet: I love Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens with its neverending rolling lawns, mountain vistas and sights of the city is one of the city's most well loved gems. Take a blanket and a book and spend an afternoon snoozing under a tree.

City soundtrack: do yourself a favour, pop into any music store and buy a copy of a Freshly Ground CD - their Afro fusion sound is uplifting, heartwarming and a true indication of our beautiful rainbow nation. You'd do well to buy a copy of the latest Goldfish CD too - you'll love the electro jazz that's taking these talents all over the world.

Shopaholics beware: If protecting your plastic from bargains, one-off finds and must-have buys is a priority, don’t even think about venturing to Long and Kloof Streets. The two interconnecting arteries wind through the city virtually up to the mountain - on Long you’ll find edgy clothing boutiques, designer sneaker stores and pavement cafés teeming with well-heeled twenty and thirtysomethings (try out Royale Eatery & Royale Kitchen for the best burgers in town and some great people watching). Stroll up Kloof Street and stop in at smart lifestyle boutiques like O.live, Nap and Lim and make sure you take a look at Heartworks for cutting edge crafts by local talents.

Don't leave without: visiting the top of Table Mountain, you'll kick yourself if you don't. Trying dried meat biltong or a sweet and syrupy koeksister (a doughnut type delicacy), braving our chilly Atlantic waters and having fish and chips at Hout Bay harbour. Gifts? When I travel overseas I always take an animal or two made by a local craftsmen out of recycled plastic and they never fail to illicit a charmed response.