ELLE names their 2015 Rising Star


First published on www.mediaupdate.co.za in November 2015

Young Moroccan fashion designer, Hamza Guelmouss’s life changed in Johannesburg on Wednesday, 25 November when he took home top honours at the ELLE Rising Star Design Awards held at Hyde Park.

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By Remy Raitt

The ELLE Rising Star Design Awards in association with Mr Price (MRP) is the largest fashion prize in Africa, and since 2000 has launched the careers of some of Africa’s biggest names in the industry. Guelmouss, the only non-South African out of the six finalists, walked away with R30 000 and the opportunity to work in collaboration with MRP and launch his own range. He will also learn from a mentorship programme at MRP’s head office in Durban, obtain online business coaching with GetSmarter as well as receive exposure in ELLE Magazine.

The Awards and fashion show began with a sneak peek of MRP’s new range titled ‘Smells like Teen Spirit’. Taking cues from the Nirvana hit, the outfits matched feminine florals with grungy denim and hi-top sneakers to create an effortless free-spirited look.

Magazine editor, Gisèle Wertheim Aymés, then took to the catwalk to express her belief in the power of design. “I was asked if I thought design could change the world, and I said yes, it can, one stitch at a time,” she said. “Design shakes the way one experiences life, and fashion allows us all to be a little wilder, to express ourselves and even be extravagant,” she continued.

Wertheim Aymés congratulated all six finalists, saying that although there would only be one winner, there were many successes, all with their own beautiful stories.

The judges of the stiff competition ranged from fashion designers, MRP trend experts, ELLE Magazine staff and fashion’s foremost fundis. MRP Trend executive, Amber Jones, joined Wertheim Aymés on the runway to congratulate Guelmouss on his astounding achievement, but not before all the finalists showed off their various collections to a fixated front row.

Blünke Janse van Rensburg (21) opened the show with bright oversized bows and shoulder pads with a line that used kitsch elements to express her daring style. Next, 24-year-old Cara Geach’s monochromatic sporty range exuded simplistic luxury. She was followed by Durbanite Siyabonga Ntini (22) who’s street-style inspired garments used mint and mango colours to exude a hip, preppy vibe. Twenty-four-year-old Bianca Messina’s range was inspired by the Bauhaus movement and rock formations and offered a muted and minimalistic aesthetic that was both sexy and sophisticated. Daisy Jo Grobler (20) looked to nature for her line, which incorporated knits, embroidery and floral fabric to create a feminine line that honours her own heritage. Guelmouss (20) was the final young designer to display his garments on the runway. His edgy range made use of non-conformist structures, predominantly in black, layered in a way that exuded urban confidence and androgyny.

Last year’s ELLE Rising Star Design Award winner, Tamar Cherie Dyson’s line closed the show. White and creams dominated the colour palette while architectural lines exuded a chic and elegant aesthetic.

The audience was then treated to an up-close-and-personal look at all the garments on show thanks to AFI Fastrack.

For more information, visit www.elle.co.za. Alternatively connect with them on Facebook or on Twitter.


REAL SPACES: Commune.1


First published on http://www.visi.co.za in August 2012

Taking a giant step away from the traditional aesthetics of a ‘white cube’ exhibition space, the Commune.1 gallery on Wale Street uses its historical architectural skeleton to create more than just a backdrop for the art that hangs there, it creates an experience.

The building, which was a working funeral home beforehand, was bought and transformed by Greg Dale in May last year. After completely stripping the building of everything but its original features and scraping away nearly 200 years of paint, the gallery opened its doors in September to reveal a space dedicated to sculpture and installation artworks.

Through the door on the street, a narrow, dimly lit passageway opens onto an open aired courtyard. Beyond a set of double doors, the largest of the exhibition spaces reveals itself. The original features like the wooden floors and staircase, which Greg left intact, provide warmth, allowing the viewer to interact with the artworks in a more authentic way.

Roelof van Wyk’s Jong Afrikaner: A Self-Portrait currently hangs in the gallery, and viewers are able to absorb the larger than life photographs from many different vantage points. The enormity of the double volume space allows the art to breathe, which in turn allows viewers to take in everything it has to offer. As the viewer follows the flow of the gallery new spaces – and consequently new artworks – are revealed, making the move through the space an experiential one filled with surprises.

Greg, who has been an art collector for years, opened Commune.1 as an arena for artists working in installation and sculpture to exhibit in “a space that is relatively adaptable to their needs,” he says.

“The intention is to provide a dedicated space showcasing this kind of work, that will hopefully eventually lead to a shift in thinking and understanding of installation art, and slowly build a culture of appreciation for this kind of experience.”

We spoke to Greg to find out more about his gallery.

VISI: How long have you been in business?

Greg: Commune.1 opened its doors on the 1st of September, 2011, spring day, and there were many clever headlines along the lines of ‘from death to life’, referring obviously to the building’s checkered past and its new function.

Did you design the space yourself?

I designed everything, from the lighting to the bathroom fittings. The gallery is something that I had very clear ideas about and I felt I was the person closest to understanding what was required.

Was the gallery’s interior inspired by anything in particular?

There are a few different areas within the gallery building, and each was inspired by something different and motivated by functionality and aesthetics, and obviously by how the space would suit the work that would be exhibited in the best way. Interestingly, I had carried around a reference of my ideal space layout, which was a Spanish museum, and the layout of this building was nearly identical, so with very few additions I was able to recreate almost exactly what I had in mind from the outset. A few surprises during the stripping process led me to new choices, but on the whole it created itself and slowly became what I had set as the ideal.

In your opinion, what are the key design considerations for an exhibition space?

Being an installation space, the design considerations are very different from say a commercial gallery that may need more wall space, or a different flow. For the kind of experiential work I exhibit, the flow of people through the experience was my most important consideration. How they view the work, from which vantage points. And volume. The need for big volume in height and floor space was constantly considered. The mezzanine level allows a great viewpoint to view the exhibits from a new angle, and also creates a pattern of experiential momentum where the spectator can experience ideas from entirely new perspectives.

And for a home space?

I tend to approach living spaces the same way. Volume, height, space. A simple starting point where you can highlight things that you feel are integral. Room to breathe.

Where did you source the raw materials, decor and furniture items in Commune 1?

Most of Commune.1 is original, very little was added. But the brilliant Lutge Gallery on Loop Street provided most of the architectural extras that I needed, and most fit so seamlessly into the space that they appear to be original.

How does this environment encapsulate or enhance the art on exhibit?

The environment, in the way that it is laid out to constantly reveal new spaces, new areas, mimics the concept of the work that is being shown. A space that holds as much mystery and freedom to perceive things in your own way, it melds perfectly with the work on show. The building also very quietly provides a background to the works on exhibition, without ever forcing itself onto the spectator.

And lastly, what do you think Cape Town’s title of World Design Capital 2014 will bring to the city?

I hope it will bring an awareness of the need for more public sculpture, works that will become part of the Cape Town scenery, and inspire art tourism on the level that this city deserves. Beautiful outdoor art enhances a city in so many ways, and speaks volumes about the country’s dedication to the arts, as well as being aesthetically and conceptually integral to the continuation of the growth of the arts.

Roelof van Wyk’s Jong Afrikaner: A Self-Portrait is on show at Commune.1 until 26 July.

More information: www.commune1.com



First published on http://www.visi.co.za in August 2012

It’s the magical musky smell of leather that first hits you when you walk into the Dark Horse store and studio on Kloof Nek Road. And although the scent continues to linger, your other senses are quickly aroused too.

Sight in particular; there’s so much to see, and it’s not just the furniture, fashion and decor pieces on sale. The owners and product designers, Lise du Plessis and Jarred Nelson, have created a space that really shows off their handiwork. Concocting clever texture and colour contradictions between the actual space and the items on sale, the products scream “Buy me!” and the walls and resident ginger cat Biscuit invite you to move in.

Unusual choices, like a wall covered in recycled tyres, pay items like the newly designed powder coated steel vases their due. Dark navy blue walls allow the bright threads in the strap cushions to pop, while another wall in the store made from leftover wood chips and logs, further enhances the cozy interior. The authenticity of the apparel on sale in the store is manifested in the studio by the sound of singing sewing machines hidden behind curtains, while mounds of leather and canvas all speak of new designs which are soon to grace the walls and shelves of the store.

We sat down with Lise and Jarred, a trained interior designer and architect respectively, to find out more about their designs and the space that houses them.

How long have you been in business?

We started Dark Horse when we moved back to Cape Town from England last year. We needed furniture for our apartment but couldn’t find anything that we liked within our price range. We started making furniture and apparel pieces in our apartment until we moved into this space in May last year.

Did you design the space yourself?

Yes, everything was designed and created by us.

Was the shop’s interior inspired by anything in particular?

The space was inspired by the products we design and sell. We wanted to keep it quite dark and neutral so that it would contrast with the brightness of some of our designs.

In your opinion, what are the key design considerations for a shop space or studio?

It has to be inviting. The atmosphere is key (and so is the coffee). Customers need to interact with the space and feel at home. We have customers who have become part of the Dark Horse family and I think the space we have created has a lot to do with that.

And for a home space?

A home has to have personality but also be functional. We like to keep things open in our home, exposing things in the cupboard, ‘showing off’ what we have.

Where did you source the decor and furniture items in your shop/space?

We laid everything in the shop ourselves, we repurposed a lot of things like the tyre and timber and then did all the sanding and staining ourselves… ja we remember those days well.

How does this environment encapsulate or enhance the wares you sell?

The space and products work together to create a homely feeling rather than a retail shop. The studio in the back also allows people to see how our products are made, they can see the process, which helps them understand just how local Dark Horse furniture and apparel really is. For us design is something that is considered, and the functionality of the space shows that off.

And lastly, what do you think Cape Town’s title of World Design Capital 2014 will bring to the city?

We’re hoping it will create greater public awareness about design and help create a shared understanding of what design is. It’ll really shine a light on Cape Town, exposing local design to people overseas.

Find out more at www.dark-horse.co.za

REAL SPACES: Tamboers Winkel


First published on http://www.visi.co.za in August 2012

A contemporary country kitchen has recently opened its doors off the top of Kloof Street. You’ve probably heard the buzz about the food but we think Tamboers Winkel’s interior needs a bit of a commotion too.

Above the front door, a sign in gold reads: “Johannes Theobalt Halting van Niekerk: Local purveyor of quality goods”, and on entrance the screed flooring, floor-to-ceiling wooden shelving, and warm exposed lighting makes you realise the quality is not just focused on the food but on every little detail between the walls of the cozy restaurant and deli.

A turquoise wall at the back of the exposed kitchen cheekily contradicts the snug atmosphere the abundance of wood creates in the rest of the shop. But the wood is not all there is to look at. Vintage ornaments and pots of indigenous flowers add to the homely feeling, as does a classic display cabinet filled with ceramic table wear. The kitchen’s handiwork is displayed beautifully on the wall of wooden shelving, which makes shopping from the central table while you enjoy your meal a cinch.

Look up and a truly beautiful lighting arrangement of brass hoops and hanging light bulbs adds a slice of glamour, though not enough to make Tamboers Winkel seem pretentious. Owner Theo van Niekek has struck the balance between decadence and homeliness perfectly, making his store an everyday pleasure.

We chatted to Theo to find out more about his restaurant and deli.

VISI: How long have you been in business?

Theo: We opened on the 2nd of June 2012

Was the restaurant’s interior inspired by anything in particular?

I was born in a small Eastern Free State town called Ficksburg. My grandparents had a farm there called ‘Vorentoe’. I spent most of my weekends on the farm and loved their kitchen. I wanted to re-create that warm, friendly and cozy atmosphere.

Did you design the space yourself?

Marcii Goosen and her team helped to create the vision. My good friends Gareth McArthur and Niklaus Lutzeler did the signage and shelving respectively.

In your opinion, what are the key design considerations for a shop space?

I’m no designer but I think that colour is the first thing that you experience when you walk into any space. It needs to be inviting. That is what I aimed for whilst opening Tamboers Winkel; the food is fresh, free range, organic home cooked meals, and therefore the decor had to be inviting.

And lastly, what do you think Cape Town’s title of World Design Capital 2014 will bring to the city?

I feel absolutely blessed being born in South Africa; it is a beautiful country with tremendous talent. Cape Town World design capital will showcase that talent. 

You can find Tamboers Winkel at 3 De Lorentz Street, Gardens

A sculpture on the skyline


A box of colour on the rooftop of the Main Change building in Joburg’s Maboneng Precinct, is not an apartment or even a bar, but a 
“functionalised sculpture” conceptualised and realised by Swiss artist Kerim Seiler.

Titled Relay (Situationist Space Program), the structure was inspired by Situationist International, the European political and artistic movement of the 1950s and 1960s. In reaction to the “isms” that came before it, this revolutionary movement believed there was nothing left to produce in art that was stronger than a real-life situation.

Kerim is especially influenced by the movement’s theory of dérive, which believes structures have psychogeographical contours that discourage entry and exit in certain zones. An artist can use the theory to create “in and out points” in a work and so direct new and authentic experiences.  Relay, says Kerim, is a modern-day dérive materialised in the form of a two-storey dwelling that will be used by people from around the world as a space to revel in unexpected situations.

Kerim came across the rooftop in 2010 while working on Nomadic Structures, a project in which he built temporary structures around the country with the help of friend Gregor Metzger. One of the locations was a rooftop in the Maboneng Precinct. “I met the developer, Jonathan Liebman, and loved his rooftops. I asked if I could buy one, but Jonathan said that rather than selling me one, he would trade it for art. This was a unique notion, and I proposed we build the artwork on a rooftop,” says Kerim.

Supported by the Swiss Art Council, Pro Helvetia, Kerim started worked on the Relay sculpture in late 2010. It’s made from a steel frame clad in brightly coloured pine slats. The actual construction of the building, which Kerim considers the performative element of the artwork, was a dérive in itself he says. “The building evolved constantly. I drew the plans after I had completed it, so the plans are more like a diary of the performance.”

Already a functioning dwelling, Relay has a bathroom, kitchen, sleeping area and deck. It’s only missing some comfort furnishings, which Kerim is building in the same style and colour palette as the building.

Kerim’s works have one thing in common: colour. “I used to stick to a very rigid colour system that used only primary and secondary colours. I was very theoretical about my use of colour,” he says. But after completing a project at the Museum Tinguely in Basel, Switzerland, he has branched out into more varied colour compositions. “This is the second colour composition I came up with. I think the green, silver and magenta are very European,” he says, “but I don’t want to impose this idea on the viewers, although I have a feeling that they would probably agree. It’s a subsequent dialogue.”

Relay has already had a few guests. Hubert Klumpner and Alfredo Brillembourg from the interdisciplinary design practice Urban Think Tank recently visited. And while Kerim was still working on the structure, he hosted an open house every Wednesday. “I also held a masked ball,” he says. “The cool crowd was there and they all wanted to move in immediately.” But, once complete, Kerim and Jonathan hope Relay will be inhibited by “specialists”, in particular highly skilled people who live routine lives that need an injection of spontaneity.

Kerim is now in the process of negotiating a site for an identical sculpture on another continent. He says the plans for Relay are available to anyone. “Whoever’s interested just needs to contact me to discuss the structure and ensure it will be used in the intended artistic way.”

Andrew Dominic


Furniture maker Andrew Dominic admits that he’s a man of few words. But, in his industry, being a chatterbox is hardly necessary – especially when your furniture speaks volumes for you.

Andrew Dominic turns temperate hard wood into classic and functional pieces of art. His sleek, simple and expertly crafted pieces caught our attention at the recent Design Indaba Expo, where his furniture was exhibited as part of the Salon Privé arena at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC).

The skilled furniture maker has always had “a thing for wood”. Growing up in South West England, in a small coastal town near Plymouth, Andrew spent many of his younger days working on and with boats. “My appreciation for wood really grew from this. But to build a boat or yacht, you need at least five years of nautical engineering behind you. Furniture is much simpler.”

The craft is perhaps simpler, but Andrew doesn’t cut corners when it comes to producing high-quality furniture. “I like doing things well. I’m a perfectionist, so coming close to perfection – even if I’ll never get there 100% – is what I aim for.”

Moving permanently to South Africa about two years ago, gave Andrew the opportunity to open his own workshop in Observatory. And while he hopes, through new commissions and the eventual designing of his own range, that he’ll become a more confident designer, he’ll always consider himself a craftsman first.

Andrew hopes that orders for his products will grow, but he never wants to reach a huge, factory-like scale of production. Another no-no for the furniture maker is plywood. “It bores me. I know it’s sustainable, but to me it looks like a prototype. If I filled my house with plywood furniture, I would feel like a disposable human being who won’t be here for very long.”


While plywood might be out of the question, Andrew does take measures to ensure sustainability.

Every time a customer commissions a piece of furniture, a tree is planted. Through the community-focused initiative Greenpop, Andrew has donated trees that have been planted all over Cape Town, according to his clients’ wishes.

He also donates all the sawdust to stable yards, and off-cuts are used as firewood.

But Andrew’s well-priced furniture is also sustainable in a less obvious way: “I feel furniture is something that will be in your life for many years, and I hope my work will be considered as treasures that are passed down.”

More information: http://www.andrewdominic.co.za; workshop@andrewdominic.co.za

Queen of vintage


Local fashionista Kate Chauncey – a.k.a. The Pessimiss – loves all things vintage. VISI interviews the popular blogger, who also forms part of a fashion upcycling trend that’s currently gaining momentum in South Africa.

Kate Chauncey, better known online as The Pessimiss, is dressed in a striped top, a long, flowing mid-waist navy skirt, both thrifted of course, and grey socks with brown leather stack heels. Her pink, painted pout stretches into a smile every time a new topic on vintage fashion is brought up.

Kate’s popular blog, The Pessimiss, started about six months ago. At the start of the year, she decided it was time to bring tangible fashion to her readers and friends. And that’s how the Rah-Rah Room came to life.

Once a month twenty-something Kate holds a vintage sale in her lounge in Gardens, Cape Town. She sells pieces collected from thrift stores in her hometown, Knysna, and other high-quality fashion pieces that have made their way into her extensive collection.

“I have a good understanding of what I consider vintage, and a good understanding of what I consider ‘crap’,” Kate says, explaining that her monthly Rah-Rah Room sales only offer clothing that falls into the former category. From classic and cult labels to perfect cuts, she collects for the style-hungry over most genres.

Kate grew up in a fashion-minded family: “My mom sews and I grew up surrounded by fabric, buttons and sequins.” But, although known to hem the odd skirt, Kate’s real passion for fashion really shines through in her writing.

Currently a copywriter at The Foundry, Kate hopes to branch into fashion writing. Already a contributor for London-based Schon!, she notes that her dream job would be to ink out her love for fashion at Vogue magazine.

Kate’s love affair with vintage began at a young age and, along with her best friend, she’s always dreamt of opening her own store.

While her art-deco-style lounge may be a more simplistic version of her dream, Kate says the sales are always a great success. Fellow vintage connoisseurs will show up with a bottle of vino and might spend hours discussing fabrics, labels and all things fashion (and of, course, walk off with a gem or two).

More information:  pessimiss@gmail.compessimiss.wordpress.com/