There is a certain segment of the South African population that loves to shop. They take their shopping malls quite seriously. In fact, on a random day in Cape Town, shopping malls may be even more crowded than they would be the day before Christmas at a shopping center in the United States. Seriously, look at the crowd at the V&A waterfront on a random Sunday:
Okay, from those angles and due to my poor photography skills, it may not look that crowded, but you should have seen inside. It was packed! The V&A Waterfront is the main tourist part of Cape Town, but these people were not tourists. How do I know? Well, it was the off season for starters. Everywhere we went as tourists was not packed, and it was easy to eat at some of the top rated restaurants in Cape Town without reservations. If these people were all tourists, then that wouldn’t be the case. These were South Africans shopping.
If I lived in Cape Town, I would probably be even more of a shopper than I am now. They have great stores and stuff! I wasn’t the only person that thought that. David practically bought a whole new wardrobe in the Victoria wharf, because they had all of his favorite stores – Paul Smith, Ben Sherman, and Penguin and a favorable exchange rate. Then, I introduced him to one of my favorite brands which also had a retail location in the Wharf, Pringle of Scotland. Now you need to understand this. The only store in the US where I have seen Pringle, aside from their store in New York is Neiman Marcus. In American dollars, Pringle is very expensive and frequently out of my price range. In South Africa, we were working with a favorable exchange rate, and for whatever reason, Pringle clothes were in our price range. It was a dream come true for me.
One reason that might have explained why Pringle is more affordable in South Africa is printed right there on the label. The clothes are also made in South Africa. It is wonderful! I have been trying to not purchase any clothing that is made in China, which can be a very difficult task, but more than that, I was able to buy clothing that I loved that was made in a place that I loved that I was currently visiting. It helped me feel like that even though I was buying something considered a luxury good to most South Africans, I was still doing something good for South Africa. I found a dress that I loved there, and a hat which I think I loved even more. Now, when I wear it, I think I am more proud of the “Made in South Africa” label than the Pringle of Scotland label:
We also discovered an Australian store and label that we loved, Trenery. Trenery only has retail locations in Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa currently. I think it is like the Australian version of Banana Republic, only much better. You can’t buy it online outside of those locations either. However, the website expressed that they are working on a way to purchase clothing and ship it to other destinations internationally, so here is to hoping that happens soon. This place pretty much seemed to mimic my style completely. I also bought this dress there. Not since my discovery of Bruuns Bazaar have I been so excited about the discovery of an international brand that it is impossible for me to buy in America.
I only bought two dresses and a hat while I was in South Africa. David, as I said, practically purchased an entirely new wardrobe. Let me tell you, people in Durham, North Carolina have taken notice. We went to the men’s half-yearly sale at the Nordstrom in Southpoint on Saturday, and as David looked at the clothes and saw nothing that could compare with his South Africa wares, he received one compliment after another from people wanting to know where he got his clothes he was wearing. I told him he was probably the best dressed man in the entire shopping complex, city of Durham, and possibly, the state of North Carolina that day.
South African shopping isn’t all about clothing, though. In fact, there are scores of local artisans and you can purchase beautiful arts in crafts that are truly one of a kind. The great place about a place like South Africa is that you can purchase arts and crafts directly from the people who make the goods, if you only put forth a moderate amount of effort. Craft malls and markets are in abundance. One of the places that I was most pleased to see when we visited Langa is a newly built community center that houses local artisans from the township. The artisans get free studio space in exchange for teaching youth in the community how to do the craft. The name of the center is the Guga S’thebe Center. The center also houses a classroom and computer center sponsored by Microsoft that teaches youth in the community computer skills. I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to meet the artisans who create such beautiful work and buy directly from them, knowing that the money would go to them and youth in the community. We visited a pottery studio:
In addition to purchasing some beautiful pottery for friends and family, we also purchased a beautiful sand painting and also framed woodwork from two of the other artisans at the center. I can’t tell you how much we love their work and what a privilege it will be to display it in our home.
In addition to the artisans in Langa, we also purchased from some other artisans at craft markets in Cape Town, including a beautiful frame and platter made of recycled ostrich egg shells (the eggs had already hatched or were never fertilized) made by Janine Jones Creations (she first became known for her work with beaded silverware); beautiful appliqued pillowcases; and handmade jewelry (from a designer who had on display a picture of herself with Bill Clinton).
If you want to feel good about spending money and purchase goods that will be different from all your friends who are shopping at Anthropologie, then go to South Africa. That is really all I can say about it.