Yesterday I became excited about another dimension of Cape Town – I attended the Design Indaba Expo, the first time that I have attended any aspect of the Design Indaba in its 16 year history. I am so sorry that I was not better informed about this amazing event in the local newspapers or on radio, and had it not been for Twitter I would not have known about it. I was blown away by the quality and diversity of design, by mainly Cape Town based designers, in the jam-packed Cape Town International Convention Centre exhibition hall, and must congratulate Ravi Naidoo and his Design Indaba team for the excellent organisation, and leading-edge design on display. I would urge all design-lovers in Cape Town to visit the Design Indaba Expo this weekend.
There is such an overwhelming number of exhibitors, in relatively small stands, that one blindly moves from one stand to another, trying to not miss anything in the vast hall. No exhibitor map or list is provided when one buys the ticket outside the hall, and the Design Indaba Info stand is in the centre of the hall (not visible when one enters), and I only saw it near the end of my long walk through the exhibition. Here I was able to obtain a “Visitors Guide”, which lists each of the roughly 250 exhibitors, and contains the floor plan, so that one can find the exhibitors, as well as the programme for the fashion shows and film festival, forming part of the Design Indaba programme. Designers were chosen by a panel of industry experts, the Visitors Guide explains. What I did observe is that many designers are brand new at their design businesses, and rather poor at their marketing, not having business cards and/or brochures with them, or having handed all of them out during the first day of the Expo. Pierre le Roux was one of the most interesting designers at the Expo, in my opinion, but has no business card and not even a website. Pierre described his furniture as being works of art more than functional seating. To obtain further information and contact details of all the designers, one has to buy a “Buyers Guide” at R100, which I decided to do, to use at a later stage – sadly Pierre’s details are not in the Buyers’ Guide either. This information deficiency was the only flaw in the Expo that I experienced.
Near the entrance was an impactful rainbow-coloured display to attract attention to Cape Town’s bid for Design Capital of the world in 2014. Attendees were invited to sign the base of the display, to show their support for the bid. Next to it stood a five-tier cake by Charly’s Bakery, which reflected different aspects of Cape Town. in the exhibition hall one can loosely pick up a grouping of similar designers, including furniture, fashion, jewellery, craft, interior design, product design, advertising, architecture, publishing and many more design disciplines.
The furniture exhibits probably attracted the most attention, because the exhibitors required more space, and they tended to not be confined within exhibition stand walls. I was impressed by the differentness of an outdoors chair made from pipes (left), as well as the new stainless steel tub chair from the Sofa Studio in Franschhoek. Other furniture designers at the Expo include the Western Cape Furniture Initiative, Haldane Martin, Cabinetworks, Pierre Cronje, Raw Studios, Recreate, Pedersen + Lennard, …XYZ Design, and a most cleverly named Flower Power, making lamps shaped like proteas.
The 24 jewellery stands probably were the most popular in general, attracting a lot of visitors. The work exhibited was more modern and contemporary, some quirky, very creative, some art, some organic, some romantic, and all unique and non-commercialised. The University of Stellenbosch Jewellery Design department also exhibited its students’ work. Ceramic exhibitors include Liesel Trautman, Diana Ferreira, fun Zizamele Ceramics, John Bauer, The Potter’s Workshop, Tamarillo Ceramics & Design, Clementina Ceramics, Hennie Meyer Ceramics, Imiso Ceramics, Sootcookie Ceramics, Tania Babb Ceramics and Wonki Ware. Craft exhibitors include Woodhead’s, Usisi Designs, Cupcake Country, The Cape Craft & Design Institute, Phumani Paper, Design Afrika, Monkeybiz, The Letterpress Company, Nicfredman Art and Design, Molten, The Beloved, and many more. Fashion took up a lot of exhibition space, and was popular. Exhibitors include Tjerrie, Matblac, GOOD Clothing, Coast & Koi, Spilt Milk, BlueCollarWhiteCollar, Homework, Mielie, Township Patterns, DURCHZUG, FACT, Baie Nice, Continent Africa, and MeMeMe. Lifestyle designers exhibiting are Pepper Plum Designs, Yda Walt Studio, Flick Glass, Fundi Light & Living, Carrol Boyes, Chic Revolution, Tintown, Anatomy Design, and Ikhaya. Some of the names of the designer businesses are as creative as their craft!
There are two separated design areas within the Design Indaba Expo. The first is The Salon Privé, ‘focusing on the crème de la crème of South African design. The Salon Privé is independently curated and designers are encouraged to use the platform to launch a new product or product range.’ In this space the Ardmore ceramics table attracted attention, as did the Veuve Clicquot champagne bar, where I indulged in a glass of their Rosé bubbly at R99, served in a most beautiful unusual champagne glass, nothing like I have ever seen before, without a stem. Other exhibitors are architects Haldane Martin, Johannesburg-based interior designers Tonic (which one hopes will open in Cape Town too), Willowlamp, Zenzulu, Egg Designs, Ronel Jordaan, ZENZULU, and more. Close by was a collection of small stands dedicated to “Emerging Creatives”, but it is not explained in the Visitors Guide, other than that there are 60 first-time exhibitors, under the heading “New Kids on the Block”. The Department of Trade and Industry also had a conglomerate pavilion with about ten exhibitors, including Abode Designer, Veldt designers, Zan Zan décor, Drift Furniture, Keiskamma Art, Master Wires and Deesigned Beads.
For the hungry and thirsty Expo-goers, one can buy Woolworths’ coffees and rolls, or buy sandwiches and other foods from the Earth Fair Market. Grolsch has an interestingly designed stand too. Whilst I sat down at the table to have my cappuccino, I had the most wonderful experience in reconnecting with Mark Robinson, whom I had last seen twenty years ago when we both consulted to the then Colman Foods. The lady that took his seat when he left shared a background in PR and marketing with me. This was another enriching dimension of the Expo.
Alongside the Design Indaba Expo is the update of the Cape Town Design Route, and this is an exciting longer-term manifestation of Cape Town’s design wealth, in that tourists and locals can visit more than fifty designers in the city throughout the year. The Cape Town Design Route designers are all exhibiting at the Design Indaba Expo. The updated Cape Town Design Route 2011 map was lying at the entrance to the exhibition, without one being alerted to this wonderful design highlight. I had read about the Design Route by chance last year, and this is the first time that I have seen a map for it. I was so inspired about the Cape Town Design Route at the time that I wrote a blogpost about it, and will write a new one about the Cape Town Design Route 2011.
Film and fashion events take place inside the Expo throughout the exhibition days, and the programme of events is detailed in the Visitors’ Guide. Childrens’ design and art workshops are also on the programme throughout the weekend.
Last year the Design Indaba became infamous due to the spectacle Martha Stewart made of herself as the keynote speaker at the Design Indaba Conference – this year the Design Indaba will be remembered for the most wonderful showcase of design in Cape Town!
Design Indaba Expo, Cape Town International Convention Centre, Cape Town. Tel (021) 465-9966. www.designindaba.com. Today 10h00 – 20h00, Sunday 10h00 – 18h00.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage