Mother City designers ahead of the rest

Cathy O'Clery, the creative director of 100% Design speaks at the We Are Cape Town exhibition at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.

With Cape Town being named the world’s most creative city in 2016 by HowITravel, and again mentioned in the Top 10 in 2017 by Hayo magazine, it seems clear that design in the city is reaching new heights.

We Are Cape Town, an exhibition at Decorex held at the Cape Town Convention Centre (CTICC) over the weekend, aimed to celebrate unique design the city, said Cathy O’Clery, the creative director of 100% Design, which hosted the exhibition.

The exhibition was a sneak peek of what people can view at 100% Design, the largest curated exhibition platform for sourcing high-end contemporary design in Africa, which takes place in Johannesburg in August this year.

Ms O’Clery said the designers who form part of We Are Cape Town, will fly to Johannesburg to take part in the event.

“The Cape Town design community plays a substantial role in our society by creating outstanding environments for our tourists, jobs for our residents, beautiful interior solutions for homes, and work that resonates across the globe,” said Ms O’Clery.

“We Are Cape Town has a dual purpose – putting the spotlight on the city as a hub of creative talent and promoting a community that plays a substantial part in the economic growth of the city.”

Ms O’Clery told the CapeTowner the Cape Town design scene was very supportive. “Cape Town is the most creative city, and with the shared community, the spirit just grows and grows. Designers feed off each other, and Cape Town has the ability to increase that volume.”

She said We are Cape Town decided to focus on designers who work in collaboration and little communities. “There are many brilliant designers in Cape Town but this year we focused on designers who work in communities.

“Many designers do well on their own but we chose designers who are collaborating and doing great work together.”

One of the designers who featured in the We Are Cape Town exhibition was Michael Chandler from Chandler House in the CBD. The design featured was called Unswept Kitchen, an old-school kitchen with blue and white tiling.

Mr Chandler said blue and white had always appealed to him and never went out of fashion, so he incorporated it into his designs. “I don’t really believe in trend. I always go for durable designs.”

Mr Chandler, who has been in the CBD for the five years, said there hadn’t been much happening in the city when they first moved to Church Street, but all of a sudden the design and creative industry “exploded”.

“It’s become a place of galleries and bars,” he said, adding that initiatives like First Thursdays had done a tremendous job of highlighting the work being done by the city’s design industry.

“It also encourages people to do something good, and then maybe something better. More things are being done to keep each other healthy.”

Gerhard Swart of Ceramic Matters, which also formed part of the exhibition, said there was a market for investment pieces which “never go out of fashion”.

“People who can afford it still buy it, but it has become so creative that there is a lot of insecurity in the market, so people are more open to buying investment pieces, and things that never go out of fashion. The integrity of design has become more important.”

Chantell Woodman, a designer who has been in the industry for seven years, said design had boomed since Cape Town was named World Design Capital 2014. “You see a significant change of concentration – first there was a big focus on design and art, and people were hungry to see what more Cape Town could do. “There is even a boom in opportunity. Great design and the quality thereof gave designers a platform to collaborate and strengthen the design forum, not only in the city, but in (the rest of) South Africa too.”

She said design is changing and getting better every day. “You are constantly surprised by what designers come up with, and you are constantly in awe of it. I have travelled to many places, and you tend to draw from elements and experiences in those spaces, but nothing is as unique as the work we do in Cape Town. Like for instance, mixing ceramic and crochet in a design…who would have thought.”