Cape Town: a fashion mecca

Sarah Khan

Travel writer

Step aside New York City, and move over Paris – Cape Town is ready for its well-deserved time in the limelight as a rising fashion hotspot. Cape Town fashion expert Sarah Khan highlights the city's best local designers and where you can get your hands on these styles.

Cape Town Fashion week 2014

Cape Town’s reputation as a creative hub is hardly a secret — the city’s designation as World Design Capital 2014 was a nod to the innovation bubbling in the coastal city at Africa’s southernmost reaches, and simply affirmed what South African creatives already know to be true. And while that creativity extends to art, architecture, furniture and beyond, one realm Capetonians are rapidly becoming synonymous with is fashion. International labels like Topshop and H&M may continue to make forays into the South African market, but Cape Town fashionstas abide by a popular mantra: Local is Lekker — cool, as they say in these parts.

But where to shop for the best in Cape Town fashion? The obvious destination for the uninitiated is the V&A Waterfront district. While the area is nice for generic shopping, those looking for real Cape Town gems should make a beeline instead for neighborhoods brimming with a little more character. The artsy Woodstock suburb, which has made a name for itself as the heart of the city’s creative energy, its bylines packed with design ateliers and workshops; the vibey Central Business District, where the bustling arteries are lined with independent boutiques galore; or De Waterkant, a charming, hilly area where you’ll find a good mix of local and international brands.

Start out in Woodstock where designer Kat van Duinen has a boutique in the hip Old Biscuit Mill. The area comes alive each Saturday when the food-and-design-driven Neighbourgoods Market takes over the complex – but van Duinen’s shop is best visited on quieter weekdays. That’s when you can peacefully browse her sumptuous dresses, sleek wrap coats and cool, colourful handbags. Her designs blend her Polish heritage and African soul, which come through in her use of exotic materials and sophisticated cuts and silhouettes.

Chloe Townsend Missibaba Cape Town

Local gal Chloe Townsend got her start with a stall at the aforementioned Neighbourgoods Market, but in the past decade her hand-crafted Missibaba label has blown up as South Africa’s go-to leather accessories brand. But don’t pop by her Bree Street boutique, which she shares with jewellery designer Kirsten Goss (who has a cult following of her own!), looking for your next classic tote bag. Although Townsend does those beautifully, the items to get are Missibaba’s candy-coloured clutches and cross-body purses with a distinct pan-African flair – the ultimate Cape Town style souvenir.

Lara Klawikowski Cape Town

Lara Klawikowski’s dresses seem to play tricks with your eyes. They’re complex and avant-garde, and yet somehow manage to be eminently wearable and chic all at once. She crafts her ethereal collections of dresses and skirts at her Woodstock studio, but you can try them out for yourself at Kloof Street boutique Purr.

Charmaine Taylor Legacy Collection Cape Town

On Dock Road in the V&A Waterfront district, plan your stay at the One&Only Cape Town, where you’ll also find one-of-a-kind jewellery by designer Charmaine Taylor on offer. Or venture to the city centre to the Opulent Living Concept Store & Gallery, an intimate salon where you can peruse the finest in African art, accessories, and design. Namely, a wider range of Charmaine’s Legacy Collection, an eye-catching and symbolic favourite, carefully crafted from fragments of the fence that once surrounded Robben Island, the notorious prison where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated. Fancy meeting this design genius? She often does store visits to tell the story of the fence and how it inspired her jewellery line.

Ready to explore these one-of-a-kind Capetonian fashion hotspots yourself? Search your dates and join the trendy locals in Cape Town here.

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