Pam’s guide to Cape Town shopping

Cape Town is a Mecca for African art sourced both locally and from around the rest of Africa.  It is important to bear in mind that in addition to African “curios”,  our shopping is much like the shopping you would find in the rest of the world.  There is a definite combination of 1st and 3rd world in Cape Town.  Imported clothing incur an import tariff – as such it is likely that you will find “branded” products at a cheaper price in your own country.  However – if you enjoy African arts and crafts  – you will have lots of fun in our city as there is an endless supply.  Cape Town is also a great hub of creative people – many have chosen to relocate to our city.  So simply by walking the city you will find creativity at every corner and in every alley way.  Give yourself time to explore!

Shopping Zones!

  1. V&A Waterfront  – Note that the locals call this the V&A or they call it the Waterfront – it is never referred to as the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront.   This is a shopping hub built around a working harbour.  It is well worth heading down here to explore, shop, eat, drink and to listen to the buskers playing music while you stroll around.  The advantage of doing your shopping here is that generally the shops have sourced only the highest quality African artifacts and curios – this saves time as you do not have to dig through every item and check that the quality is good.  There is a lovely atmosphere in the Waterfront.  Make sure you exit from the big mall and walk towards the Clock Tower side of the Waterfront, there are many shops on the way that are well worth checking out.  The shops selling African goodies are too numerous to mention.  Of note in the Waterfront are some uniquely South African made products that are worth checking out.  One is Charlotte Rhys, she makes a wonderful range of soaps, creams and chocolates.  Another is a store called RAIN.  Rain make glorious bath products.   Note that Woolworths in South Africa is not related to the Woolworths group overeas, it was opened by Marks & Spencer’s in South Africa and as such is out most upmarket food retailer in the country.  This is essential knowledge for those who are here for longer stays and plan to participate in Cape Town’s favourite activity – watching the sun set with a picnic and excellent wine/champers!  Look out for:
    1. The Watershed – a new section focused on young small businesses with great design offerings
    2. The Original T Bag Designs in the Watershed at the V&A.  Original T-Bag Designs, started in Hout Bay Cape Town South Africa, was birthed out of a caring desire to improve the quality of life of impoverished South Africans. By using recycled tea bags, Original T-Bag Designs has created an innovative range of high quality hand made products, which are creatively unique. With outlets in Hout Bay and at the V & A Waterfront, it has gained a following from international visitors the world over.
    3. MADE IN SA – finally a gorgeous proudly South African shop that is beautifully merchandised plus has some local contemporary design as well as beautifully made crafts.  I love it!! They are in the main mall – in the same avenue as the main supermarket Pick n’Pay.  This little gem is well worth popping into.  There is no website.  Store number is Shop 6194.  Tel 021 4194246

2.  Bo Kaap area (just off Buitengracht rd in the city) – the Cape Malay quarter.

  • Bo-Kaap: Streetwires – 77 Shortmarket Street.  Tel: 021 426 24 75  The Bo-Kaap is located in the city bowl.  It is the only area where people of colour were not forcefully removed during apartheid.  It  is home to our Cape Muslim community.  The area is one of Cape Town’s most beautiful suburbs and boasts wonderful brightly coloured houses.   The area is turning into a hub of community projects and Fair Trade projects.  I would highly recommend that you visit Streetwires while you are in Cape Town.   About streetwires: At Streetwires, we create and market the very best contemporary African wire and bead craft, blending First World resources with traditional Third World craft skills to the benefit of everyone involved. Started in 2000, our Proudly South African project is providing training, support and raw materials neccesary to enable over 100 formerly unemployed men and women to channel their natural creative energies into this vibrant art form. TIP: When you visit them – ask them to take you on tour of the factory where they are making the wire creations – it is fascinating and gives you insight into the project.
  • Bo-Kaap – MonkeyBiz  61 Wale Street. Mon – Fri 9 -5pm, Sat 9 -1pm.  Tel no: +27 (21) 426 0145 Located around the corner from Streetwires is Monkey Biz.  I would highly recommend a visit to this community project as the work is fantastic and supports a really good cause.  From the Monkey Biz website: Ceramic artists Barbara Jackson and Shirley Fintz, passionate collectors of African beadwork and art have facilitated a revival of an ancient beading tradition in Southern Africa. Together with Mathapelo Ngaka, they made their dream come true. A desire to create employment and empowerment for disadvantaged women in Cape Town has led to the creation of “MONKEYBIZ”. Monkeybiz supplies richly coloured glass beads to women in the townships of Cape Town. The 450 women involved in the project are currently producing exquisite hand beaded artworks – each a unique one-off creation. The women are paid for each piece they produce; and since they work from home, can look after their families and avoid transport costs. The beaded works are creating a sensation wherever they appear – locally and abroad.  Historically, bead work, in a South African context, has been the domain of women largely within the Xhosa, Zulu, Ndebele and Sotho communities. The women are introduced to the craft directly through their mothers, grandmothers and other women in the community.   MonkeyBiz is a non-profit organisation – all profits go back into the communities via payment for bead art and the provision of community services.

3.  CITY:

3.1 Green Market Square www.greenmarketsquare.comThis square was originally the first fruit and vegetable market in the Cape – hence the name Green Market Square.  Today it is our local flea market.  The emphasis of the market is predominantly on African goods and art.  The main tip I can give you here is to remember to barter.  The first price you get is never the real price.  A second reminder is that these people do not earn very much and as such, do not barter to the point where you know the guy is not making a bit of a profit.  My feeling is that when I visit a foreign country I wan to leave a little something behind that benefits the locals from my visit.  The square is located in the heart of the old part of town between Longmarket and Shortmarket streets.  It is well worth a visit and is surrounded by lovely cafes where you can enjoy a coffee or a glass of wine (or two!)

3.2 Church Street

This is a little pedestrianized zone one block up from Green Market square (walking in the direction of Table Mountain).  Here this little bricked avenue has a mixture of antique and bric a brac people plying their trade, plus a mix of art galleries and arty stores.  It is well worth checking out and also stopping for a coffee at Cafe Mozart (note this is brilliant for people watching, is quirky and the food is great!)  In this avenue you will find:

  • African Image – corner of Church and Burg – this is an awesome African product store and is one that I head to when I am looking for creative African gift ideas.
  • Cape Gallery – an interesting – if fairly conventional – collection of South African artworks – it rambles and it is quite fun to head in and explore.  60 Church Street
  • Association of Visual Arts – AVA for short!  This is a funky little gallery where the exhibits keep changing – it is really fun to poke your nose in and go and explore
  • There are a variety of arty and tribal artifact stores in between that are fun to explore.
Note if you walk up Burg and into Church – you will now reconnect with Long Street – so you can now head into the Pan African market and Tribal Trends!

3.3 Long Street

Long Street has always been a hub for shopping in the city of Cape Town.  In addition it has some of our oldest and most beautiful buildings.  To get a proper feel for the street and its architecture, start walking up Long Street from Strand street towards the mountain.  Long street is home to funky little shops all the way along and it is fun to explore.  It also has loads of coffee and lunch spots and is the nightlife hub of the city.  Note that Lola’s is an institution on Long Street – it is a vegetarian restaurant which attracts a really interesting mix of people – well worth stopping for a coffee or a veggie juice and watching the eccentric locals.  A few of the interesting stores in Long Street:

  • Tribal Trends: This is my absolute favourite for upmarket African designed items and art.  This store has the highest quality merchandise out of all of the stores I have visited.  Many of the items are large and can be used for interior décor – if I had the budget I would have bought half the store already.  Tel: 021 423 8008. Address: 72 – 74 Long Street (very close to Green Market Square)
  • Pan African Market: This is a little market where the entry is simply a doorway off Long Street.  Once you are inside it is a warren of little shops.  This is a good spot to explore if you are looking for masks and African odds and ends as there is a vast array to chose from.  Be warned the sellers are quite pushy and try really hard to make a sale.  http://www.panafrican.co.za (look under Vision once you click onto the site) 76 Long Street Cape Town
  • The African Music Store: This store has a fantastic range of African music.  It may be a little more expensive than the big music stores – but they offer wonderful warm assistance while in the store.  The staff are extremely knowledgeable and friendly.  It is definitely a little gem of a store and is well worth a visit.  134 Long Street
  • Merchants on Long Street (close to Strand street end of Long): They are an upmarket African boutique which focuses on local designers.  They stock a combo of African contemporary design which includes fashion, art and homeware from around the continent.  They focus on upliftment and job creation and small business development.  The store is gorgeous and well worth a visit.  34 Long Street

3.4 Bree Street

Just two blocks up from Tribal Trends is a wonderful shop called Avoova

  • Avoova – this shop is well worth a little detour to Bree street.  They feature incredible functional artwork done out of Ostrich egg shell.  Once an ostrich has hatched, they come and collect the shells from the farms and take them to their factory.  The factory is located in a tiny village in the Cape called Prince Albert.  The Avoova initiative has been a large job creator in a village where work opportunities are short.  Here the artists do almost a “mosaicing”  with the egg shells and produce frames, and plates and mirrors.  Check out some of the designs on the website!  Incredible stuff.  I am a complete fan!  I got my first frame today from Avoova (May 2012).  So very very lovely! Address 97 Bree Street, Tel no +27 21 422 1620.  Contact person: Charmaine, e-mail: breestreet@capeoriginals.com
  • Alexandra Hojer – Swedish clothing designer who designs and produces her limited edition designs right here in Cape Town – her studio & shop are well worth a visit – 156 Bree Street
  • Skinny laMinx – brilliant local South African fabric designer – her fabric designs are now spotted globally.  201 Bree Street
  • Missibaba & Kirsten Goss – two initiatives sharing one venue at the top of Bree Street.  Missibaba is a community employment creation initiative that makes handbags in Cape Town and Kirsten Goss is a talented South African jewellery designer who is originally from Durban – but is now based in London. 229 Bree Street

3.5 City – near District 6 Museum

  • African Home – creative crafts – creating employment: The store is FAIR TRADE accredited.  They are an outlet that focuses predominantly on recycled artworks made from items such as used bags, bottle tops etc.  They have a retail outlet as well as a team of crafters who can be briefed to create anything from an artwork through to corporate gifting.  Oprah Winfrey recently commissioned candelabra’s made from used cooldrink tins for a function.  Address: 41 Caledon Street (corner of Canterbury Str).  Tel no +27 21 461 1700. www.africanhome.co.za Hours Mon – Frid 08h30 – 17h00.  After hours by appointment.
  • Woodheads – best place to buy leather and animal skins such as zebra, nguni cows skins etc.  Woodheads is a wholesaler and as such supply retail stores around Cape Town.  Their prices are substantially cheaper than the regular stores.  This is well worth a visit.  Note that you need to go to the back room to see the skins and there is a small museum upstairs – should you wish to see it, you simply ask.  29 Caledon Street, Cape Town.  Web: www.woodheads.co.za Tel no: 021 461 7185

3.6 Sir Lowry Rd  (As you are heading out of the city in the direction of Woodstock)

  • Fabric City – 32 Sir Lowry Rd: Have a wonderful large supply of Shwe Shwe fabric – if you are a fabric person – you cannot leave without buying some of this type of fabric – it is amazing and you will see people wearing it all over the country.  Click here to read the story of Shwe Shwe and to see some of the designs and skirts etc. Tel no for Fabric City -021 462 1286

3.7 GREENPOINT (EDGE OF CITY)

  • Ubunye Beadworks – (a store supporting –  Homestead a project for supporting Street Children in Cape Town that does amazing work with our street kids) – this is a job creation program that also supports the mothers of the kids in the program.  This project builds pride and supports the most marginalized people in our community.  Besides which – they are doing fantastic beadwork and their store is well worth a visit!     Address: 150 Strand Street (Corner of Hudson) …very close to the Cape Quarter. Tel no +27 21 419 9763
  • CAPE COBRA – production of unique, high quality, handcrafted exotic leather pieces. Note that it is best to call and let them know you are coming – however it is not really a problem to simply pop in.  The Showroom is open Mon – Thurs 8am t0 5pm, Fri 8am to 4pm and Sat 9am to 3pm.  Excellent range – some of the most beautiful handbags I have ever seen in exotic leather from ostrich through to cobra.    Location: 4th Floor Hill House, 43 Somerset Road, Green Point  Tel +27 21 415 3440, www.capecobra.co.za Note this is in the same building where Boardmans is (it is upstairs).  There is a parking garage down the side road and you simply tell them that you are going to Cape Cobra and they will allow you to park for free and will show you where to go.  (Note all leather is ethically sourced and the owners have visited every supplier.  They advise that the prices are roughly a third of what you would pay for the same quality  in the USA and in the UK.  Note that US clients can have the goods shipped home at no extra cost).  Check out this article in the New York Times on them by clicking here.  
  •  Cape Quarter Shopping centre– this started as one square and now has expanded to two centres – us locals refer to it as the old Cape Quarter and the new Cape Quarter.  Both have a focus on innovative shops with a design focus.  As such they are worth exploring.  Lets start with the old Cape Quarter:
    • African Nova – this is a wonderful store featuring a combination of gorgeous African art and craft pieces.  If I was shopping for original high quality African pieces I would visit this store and Tribal Trends in Long Street.
    • Andiamo – this is a favourite little Italian restaurant and deli that locals frequent – it is particularly lovely to sit on the square here during summer.  From a shopping point of view – this is the only place you can get a “fix” of parma ham and Italian tapas at 11pm at night!
    • The Lisa King Gallery – offers a selection of works from local artists – this is a must to check out if you are into art.  The focus is on South African abstract and contemporary art
  • The New Cape Quarter(across the road from the old Cape Quarter)
    • Uwe Koetter Jewelers – is one of Cape Town’s top jewelry companies and has been operating since 1968.   If you are looking for fine jewelry and want to buy from a trusted source – this would be a recommended stop on your trip.  Clients have included Kate Moss, Nicolas Cage and items commissioned by HM Queen Elizabeth II (as well as other heads of state).    If you give them a call, they will come and fetch you to come and have a look at their store.  Tel 021 425 7770.  A visit to their premises is a fun one as they have now included a bubbly bar run by one of the top local wine estates – Allee Bleue Estate.  You can do a tour of the workshop and can even stay to plan your wedding in South Africa with a wedding planning company that is working in the shop!  The wedding planners are called The Aleit Group http://www.aleit.co.za.
    • Free Range Jewels – wonderful original designs in silver made by designer and shop owner Marele Moolman.  In addition to their range they do custom design for clients.  I love the designs that I saw – right up my alley!
    • Pierre Cronje – has the reputation for the most beautiful wood work furniture in the country.   Not only are his designs absolutely gorgeous – but the level of quality is unsurpassed.  I just wish I could afford to fill my whole house with his furniture.
    • Loulisa – has absolutely gorgeous scarves in silk, wool and cashmere.  In addition they have hand carved Buddha’s.

KLOOF STREET – just above the city (Long becomes Kloof Street as you head towards the mountain!

  • Ashanti Design – fabulous initiative using offcuts from fabric that have been woven into a new fabric that is used for everything from funky cushion covers through to laptop covers and funky bean bags

WOODSTOCK SHOPPING (this suburb is close to the city – but it is best to explore with a car)

Woodstock is rapidly becoming a trendy and upcoming area where the creative community have moved into.  Rents are cheaper and there are some architectural gems waiting to be snapped up over here.  This is the area to head into if you are into art and antiques.

Two of Cape Town’s top contemporary art galleries have moved to Woodstock (note these two are in the same building):

More gems for you to discover in Woodstock:

  • The South African Print Gallery  – they have a limited edition range of prints of some of South Africa’s leading artists (across the road from Michael Stevenson Gallery) – 109 Sir Lowry Rd
  • Woodstock Foundry – 160 Albert Rd, Woodstock – this  a wonderful assortment of quirky shops, bronze age sculptures and a very funky cafe for breakfast or lunch – it is definitely worth popping in to explore if you are in the neighbourhood
  • meandyou Fashion Collective – this is a fabulous collection of designers who have taken a communual space to showcase their designs (quite a few are upstairs sowing and designing) I love this spot – great innovative items at really good prices for original designs.  Shop open 10 ’til 4 mon to fri and sat 10 ’til 1, 103 sir lowry road, woodstock, cape town +27(0) 214619301

SOUTHERN SUBURBS:

  • NewlandsThe Montebello Design Centre – lovely little collection of artists and a few quirky stores.   Combine with lunch at the Gardeners Cottage and a walk in Kirstenbosch before or after

PENINSULA:

  1. Kalk Bay: Kalk Bay is a  local Cape Town village which is located on the sea and boasts one of the quaintest small community fishing harbours.  It is also home to some of the Cape’s nicest restaurants that offer the freshest fish and a delightful shopping ramble.  Kalk Bay is a destination that many locals will head to on weekends – just to stroll up and down and relax.  The stores are a mix of antiques, bric-a-brac, art galleries and two wonderful African trading stores.  My two favourite stores in Kalk Bay are: Kalk Bay Modern (above Olympia café) and Artvark – both are well worth a visit to stock up on African art and craft.  www.artvark.org
  2. Simons Town – aim to do a walk down the main road – there are a fun and ecclectic mix of stores along the drag and it well worth exploring and doing a little ramble
  3. Hout BayThe Original T-Bag Design – Great initiative in Hout Bay to create jobs by using used t-bags to make art and crafts – this is a fabulous store to check out – gorgeous stuff and an inspirational story.

5.  CAPE TOWN SHOPPING MALLS:

For those hardened shoppers who really need to have a 1st world retail fix, visit one of the below shopping centres.  Both are useful if you need to get something for a wedding or function and have not bought it before arrival!

5.1Cavendish Square – our most upmarket shopping centre.  Location Claremont Southern Suburbs

5.2 Canal Walk– a serious mall – lots and lots and lots of shops under one roof.  This is a blister creating shopping experience. This is where the locals shop – it is also where they all hang out on cold & wet days.  So note that if you head here on a bad weather day – the centre will be manic!  Location: Just off the N1 – about 15 minutes from the Waterfront.  Note that there is a shuttle service that operates from many of Cape Town’s hotels to the shopping centre.  Click here for more information on the shuttle service. 

5.3 Cape Quarter – this is two small shopping malls in the Greenpoint area near the city.  They have a fun ecclectic mix of shops and it is great fun to walk around and explore.  Note – make sure you discover both squares!  A wonderful shop to look for is an African store called Africa Nova – it is in the Old Cape Quarter.  It stocks African artworks of an extremely high quality.

OTHER THINGS OF INTEREST:

  1. Makoya Makaraba Designs – the genuine South African styled soccer fan hard hats.  This is a really interesting empowerment project in the Southern Suburbs of Cape Town.  Many South Africans design their own hats for soccer matches.  This company sells them and will also make tailor made hard hats.  Check out their website it is fascinating. www.makaraba.co.za To visit contact Michael Souter Tel no: 021 715 26 75
  2. Online shopping of great South Africa goods  – check out Jo’s blog to see her handbags visit http://facesaroundcapetown.blogspot.com/ Some information from Jo: I started an upmarket handbag business two years ago. FACT – faces around cape town. My bags are made up with photographic images that show the spirit of South Africa. At present these images include township scenes and wildlife. I am a photographer and have my images digitally printed onto a canvas fabric. ( a very high quality but costly process) Printing this way allows me to limit the quantity, making the bags more exclusive – all my bags are limited editions of 100. I use one of the top hand bag makers (if not the best) in the country to make up the bags. The quality is superb and they are made up with genuine leather. I attach a few pics. You will also get a good idea of what fact is all about by going onto my blog http://facesaroundcapetown.blogspot.comMy business is part community project. A third of my profits go towards buying story books for the schools that the children from the Rooidakke township attend.My business has grown in the last year and included in my current range are cushions, cards, paperweights, coasters and soy wax candles.
  3. Isipili Mirrors– I love these funky mirrors that are part of a local upliftment project.  Check them out on their website – or look for them at the following outlets around Cape Town:
    1. Moyo at Spier (Stellenbosch) 021 8091989 http://www.moyo.co.za
    2. Selections Warehouse
    3. Gallery de Lyon
    4. Polly-on-line http://www.polly-online.co.uk
    5. Monkeybiz http://www.monkeybiz.co.za
    6. Mielie at Montebello http://www.mielie.co.za
  4. Mielie Handbags – using reclaimed fabric they weave the most amazing handbags – each one is an artwork and is quite simply gorgeous!  It has grown from a one person business to a project that now employs 50 people.  Check them out online – you will find them all over Cape Town – one of the best collections is at the Mielie Store at Montobello in Newlands Cape Town.
  5. Tanya Bousquet – is a very talented South African jewelry designer from Johannesburg.  She specializes in designs using lampwork beads and creative silversmithing.


Happy shopping in the Cape.  Look out for another installment from Pam before your next trip to the Cape.

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