Watershed: the very best in African design

As in many countries, there has been something of a revival in artisan craftmaking in South Africa over recent years. From fabric printers to glassblowers, and painters to jewellery makers, the creative industry is thriving with new ideas and innovative takes on old techniques. Local enterprise is the flavour of the moment, with shoppers increasingly interested in sustainability, quality and creativity.

This growing collective of artists are offering much more than the ubiquitous wooden giraffes and carved masks that can be found all over the continent – their wares are bold, unique and full of personality. The resurgence has given new meaning to the term ‘afro-chic’; it is no longer just the best that Africa has to offer, but arguably sits at the cutting edge of the global artisan market.

Cape Town is right at the forefront of this new, handmade movement and the V&A’s Watershed is THE place to find the city’s best independent brands. Located next to the aquarium on Dock Road and opened just last year, the Watershed houses over 150 pop-up shops and stalls. I stumbled across this Aladdin’s cave of crafty delights with just an hour or so to browse, but you could easily spend a whole afternoon there. It is packed full of stunning products and is the perfect place for visitors and locals alike to shop for some authentically Capetonian goodies. I’m talking woven tableware, recycled artwork, fashion, clutch bags made from local fabrics, beaded wirework, glass sculptures, organic babywear, handmade beauty products…

Note to self – visit with more time and spending money next time!

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Seriously, this place is the stuff of shopping dreams!

Best of the best…

Essie Letterpress: This great little business is based on a flower farm in the Western Cape, and they’re specialists in letterpress printed stationery. Featuring some seriously pretty patterns and typography, their range of journals is top of my list!

JK Millinery: Jacqueline Kolbe makes seriously beautiful hats, from high-end fascinators to caps using local shwe shwe fabrics. These are the definition of statement pieces, and her talent is obvious in every one.

Original T-Bag Designs: Handmade by a team of talented artisans in the townships outside Hout Bay, this pretty range of home accessories and gifts is all made from recycled tea bags. Social enterprise at its best, this initiative provides employment, skills training and community for those without.

Check out more of the artists here, and if you’re visiting Cape Town you must take a trip to the Watershed!

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