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The V&A Waterfront’s Watershed: support local at SA's biggest market for African design
Open Again: Find ceramics, textiles, fashion and furniture and now also a beauty bar
When the V&A Waterfront’s Watershed reopens on 3 September, it means over 150 entrepreneurs (and more than 365 local brands) will get back to business at the single biggest market for art, design craft (and now beauty) in South Africa.
STORY OF 150 TRADERS AND 365 LOCAL BRANDS
“It’s an African design story,” says V&A Waterfront retail executive Alex Kabalin, and it’s best narrated through the craftspeople and traders who line the 825-square metre loft-like industrial space at the Waterfront precinct.
They are ceramists, sculptors, painters, jewellers, clothing and shoe designers, textile and furniture makers. Now they also include creators of beauty brands, in the recently added beauty section within the V&A Waterfront’s Watershed. Here's you'll find ethical skin and hair care products.
The Watershed is housed inside a converted warehouse, and stalls are separated by a wide cobblestone floor beneath a towering ceiling with rows of sunroofs, setting the scene for a light-filled and airy modern-style market. A new addition to our Covid-19 reality are the benches and a graffiti wall, for shoppers to pause and interact with the space in between browsing.
AN ELEPHANT SCULPTURE MADE FROM FLIP FLOPS
For some traders, this modern hub for small businesses is their first retail environment. For others, their products have achieved a cult-status, and they’re returning to the Watershed after many years as traders here.
The V&A Waterfront is the driving force that supports these local SMMEs. The creative entrepreneurs’ work is a physical manifestation of the passion, skill and innovation in Africa.
Like sculptor Davis Ndungu, who runs Recycled Flip Flop Sculptures, who turns flip flops washed up on the beaches of Southern Africa into technicolour sculptures of animals to keep polyurethane rubber out of our oceans. From his stall, you can buy anything from a small keyring or a life-size elephant head.
Mia Melange’s handwoven and hand-stitched products (such as pot plants and baskets ) are made by craftsmen in rural villages who use tools and techniques that have been passed down through many generations.
INTRODUCING BEAUTY AT THE WATERSHED
At the new beauty section, skincare and haircare products are produced by ethical brands like Skoon, who describe their brand as kind, clean and scientific; Ubuntu Traditional Balms, whose products use old African remedies; and Chill Cape Town, who sell simple, natural skincare.
You can pick up something as small as a baobab soap, as luxurious as marula oil moisturiser or as functional as lip balm and insect repellent. There is a covetable piece for any one and every tribe at the Watershed – whether you are spending R10 or R10,000.
Whatever the price, there is a story woven into the product. You’ll learn that your plate was hand-spun on a wheel; your bowl was made from exotic wood.
BUYING FROM SMALL BUSINESSES GROWS COMMUNITIES
The most compelling part of the Watershed story is that by supporting the growth of local small businesses you are often contributing to neighbouring communities. Spaza sells homeware products made by women, and has expanded from a small stand of two square-metres five or six years ago to a shop of nearly 20 square-metres, says Alex.
Some of the magic definitely happens in the community projects, adds V&A Waterfront’s assistant marketing manager Simamnkele Booi. Zizamele Ceramics is a highly sought-after range of vibrantly coloured salad bowls, creamers, sugar bowls and mugs. The collectable ceramic pieces that are now sold all around the world are made by women from Masiphumelele, a township just outside Cape Town.
“Buying from these businesses is beyond just a product to take home – you’re also bettering these communities,” says Simamnkele. You become part of the bigger South African economic story, weaving yourself into the narrative that is going to help the country bounceback.
WATCH: THE TRADERS TELL THEIR STORIES
For Covid-19 Safety: The Watershed is cleaned and sanitised more regularly. It’s a natural ventilated, open space (no air conditioning) with sufficient distance between stalls for social distancing. Plus, all tenants’ temperatures are scanned in the mornings.
The Watershed is open 10am to 5pm, Thursday to Sunday.
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