Design Lab provides new retail opportunities for Cape Town designers

Posted on: 9. January 2023

The Craft and Design Institute (CDI) and V&A Waterfront in Cape Town have selected four new emerging local creative brands to retail in the Design Lab store at the V&A Watershed, a prime Cape Town retail space and a top tourism destination in the city.

The Design Lab is an annual programme, initiated in April 2021, that assists creatives with dedicated support through training and mentorship. It is a programme which assists creative entrepreneurs to get ready for retail through a real-life experience of running a store in a supported environment. The four new selected businesses have just taken up the space in October this year, after going through a training programme provided by the CDI. The initiative is also receiving ongoing additional support from Business and Arts South Africa (BASA).

Individual business assessments, hands-on product support, and business training, are coupled with full on-site training around running a store, including merchandising and styling, sales techniques and etiquette, banking, stock taking and point of sale. Now, with some help from the hearts and pockets of the public, these creatives can make their mark on the industry.

The four businesses that have been selected are:

Janet Lightbody
Janet Ceramics creates beautiful, expertly made, top quality ceramic pieces for the home. Janet is passionate about South African people, nature and draws inspiration from life. It was her childhood dream was to be an artist, and today, her life is her art. The range of functional ceramic art aims to inspire you to live a life you love. Janet Ceramics has supplied a wide range of innovative homeware stores locally and abroad, as well as interior design companies, game lodges and various galleries and art shops.

Tavengwa Dahwa
Rainbow Artz specialises in wire sculptors, working with galvanized wire and telephone wire. Tavengwa uses colourful wire to make a variety of meticulously crafted animals and functional decorative ware. Born in Kadoma, Zimbabwe, it was through meeting craft practitioners that inspired him, and he discovered his gift and passion. During his childhood he would make wire cars as toys to play with, and today he has made a business out of it; the art form has evolved into unique, fun and emotion-evoking art pieces. There is a spontaneity that gives each piece a feeling of life and energy.

Diana Seboke Zitha
Diana is an artist from Limpopo, South Africa based in Cape Town, with a degree in Visual Arts from Nelson Mandela University. Diana discovered her creative abilities during a crochet workshop in the final year of her university career. She has gone on to develop and finetune her technique and her crochet art has allowed her to travel to places like Sri Lanka as the winner of the South African leg of Society Of Dyers and Colourists design competition. Diana’s inspirations are drawn from the beauty of the past and living in the present.

Melony Williams
Melony is the founder of Wilderblommetjies and has been actively part of the apparel design community for many years, having worked as a designer since 2003, and as a business owner having founded Wilderblommetjies in 2018. Wild flowers captured her heart with its distinct characteristics. Her vision is to create and design clothing for babies and toddlers with prints, poems and colour schemes of South African wild flowers. Her passion is to create styles that kids can move in effortlessly while having fun. Wilderblommetjies has also done designs for many designer clothing labels for kids.

The Watershed is the ultimate teething ground for new creative businesses. It is a beautiful and vibrant space at South Africa’s top tourism destination, where over 150 tenants offer more than 365 brands to visitors. All this makes it the perfect spot for Design Lab, where the eclectic mix of undiscovered products, and the enticement of new names on the design scene, adds richness and fresh excitement to the Watershed.

The inaugural group selected in 2021 for the Design Lab saw sales in excess of R160 000 during their participation in the opportunity. Over the course of the inaugural Design Lab with these businesses, there was also support from Business and Arts South Africa ( BASA) for key marketing activities to raise awareness and drive traffic to the store. A selection of these businesses were also subsequently provided with the opportunity to retail as part of the Cape Town Marathon Expo in October this year, a major event on Cape Town’s annual calendar.

The Watershed is the Waterfront’s home to African design and its tenants represent some of the most beautiful and creative local skills, each with their own story to tell. The Design Lab programme allows us to extend the opportunity for emerging retailers to test their product in a real world environment. Through this, it builds a new range of talented entrepreneurs accessing market at The V&A Waterfront,” states Alex Kabalin, Executive Manager: Retail at the V&A Waterfront.

Says Fran Stewart, the CDI’s manager for Market Access: “Through this initiative we are focussed on the ongoing sustainability and growth potential of the selected creative businesses; helping them with dedicated support to hold their own successfully and confidently in the marketplace. The V&A Waterfront’s Watershed has consistently provided one of the most sought-after market access opportunities for creative entrepreneurs – we are proud to be partnering with them for this programme to accelerate the development of local creative entrepreneurs.”

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