As a proud resident of Joburg, it’s very humiliating to report that a couple of Capetonians got together and said, ‘’Hey let’s bring back the cool to a neglected cultural gem of Johannesburg, establish a delightful permanent local design hub that will help Joburgers feel better about the fact that a giant mall almost ruined Newtown’s Skyline’’. And Source’s Julian and Trevyn McGowan did it well.
The newly opened Work Shop New Town, housed in the historic 1911 Potato Sheds of Newtown, is exactly what the otherwise conceptually scant Newtown Junction mall needed. It’s a beautifully designed hub where local fashion, art, design, beauty products and food co-exist to a conscious shopper’s content. The open-air stores, which have the charming look of dressed up market stalls, make for an impressive labyrinth of offerings from over 100 South African designers in fashion, furniture and other lifestyle goods.
What I really like about this initiative is that it provides retail spaces to entrepreneurs who might not otherwise afford to have bricks and mortar stores in malls or whose businesses have online visibility but aren’t accessible to most consumers. Take for example internationally celebrated Port Elizabeth designer Laduma Ngxokolo, whose award winning knitwear now has a modest stand-alone space at Work Shop. Or Maria McCloy, who’s much loved African printed shoes, bags and accessories were only available at Market on Main on Sundays. Henriette Botha’s exquisite jewellery now comes with bags and shoes, which are an addition to the Work Shop’s other accessories brands such as Aya, Vernac Bags, Famke, Crystal Birch, Dr Pachanga Vintage and the colourful African Image store.
Black Coffee has its second stand-alone store, as does Morphe, Wolf and Maiden – they of amazing leather goods and Unknown Union – a street wear brand that carries Thabo Makhetha’s famous Sotho blanket jackets. I instantly became broody when I walked into Destiny Magazine Fashion Director Papama Ramogase’s sensational children clothing store Butter Pudding where locally produced black and white gingham pinafore dresses and shirts, intricate embroidered jackets and other stylish, pleasantly gender neutral clothing and shoes light up the space. Visitors can also look forward to a host of other Cape Town designers at Source, a compendium of fashion from designers like Michelle Ludek, Pichulik and Guillotine.
The space boasts an art gallery which is currently exhibiting work from The Bubblegum Club, beauty supply stores such as Tarryn Gill’s The Perfect Hair and Yivani Natural creams and oils, a vintage record store and a Central and West African décor store called Central Original.
In terms of food, The Potato Shed is the stylish culinary offering from the people who brought us the much-loved Life Restaurant in Hyde Park. February will see the launch of a dim sum restaurant conceptualized by a team of five including editors Zodwa and Zanele Khumalo.
The Work Shop New Town is open from 11.00 – 19.00 on weekdays, 10.00 – 19.00 on Saturdays and 10.00 – 16.00 on Sundays. The pedestrian entrance is on Mirriam Makeba street and vehicle access is available from the Carr Street Newtown Junction Mall entrance.