Work Shop New Town, the fashion, lifestyle and design retail concept that opened at the end of 2015, has paved the way for 16 South African designers and African design stores to open their first-ever retail spaces, and an additional 11 designers to debut in Johannesburg.
One such designer is Laduma Ngxokolo, whose brand, MaXhosa by Laduma, recently scooped the Most Beautiful Object In South Africa Award at Design Indaba, for the versatility of his black and white shawl. With another fashion piece currently on show at New York’s Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial, titled ‘Beauty’, Work Shop New Town is proud to be home to this multi-award-winning brand’s only retail outlet in the country.
Located in the historical Potato Sheds, which were an integral part of Johannesburg’s industrial boom in the early 1900s, Work Shop New Town strives to recreate the commercial hub of the past by offering local brands such as MaXhosa by Laduma the platform to grow a new audience in the City of Gold.
“Work Shop New Town has afforded us the ideal springboard to launch our luxury leather goods brand into the Jozi marketplace,” says Wade Ross Skinner, founder of Wolf & Maiden, a brand with an already strong following in Cape Town. “Being located in a historical building in one of the oldest neighbourhoods in the city means that our legacy and heritage label feels completely at home in the space, alongside some of the most exciting brands in the country.”
Another first-timer to Joburg, with her first stand-alone space too, Katherine-Mary Pichulik of Pichulik, the award-winning woven accessories brand which Joburgers were only previously able to access online, agrees that the historical relevance of Newtown makes sense for newcomers like herself. “Work Shop New Town holds symbolic significance; its location at Newtown Junction, its relation to The Market Theatre and the historical gravitas that this all encompasses are hallmarks for our brand’s trajectory.”
Luxury womenswear brand Kat van Duinen sees its establishment in Newtown as an exciting prospect for the brand. “Our clients are always looking for something unique,” explains designer Kat van Duinen. “For this reason, both our boutiques – in Cape Town and Johannesburg – have not opened in huge, commercial malls. Rather, I have chosen to open in areas with a more authentic, individual energy, surrounded by other proudly South African brands.”
Work Shop New Town has been equally welcoming to new brands, who now find themselves in the company of some of South Africa’s iconic labels that include the likes of Black Coffee and MaXhosa by Laduma. Childrenswear brand Butter Pudding is one of these fresh new offerings. Founder Papama Ramogase says: “As a new local brand with global goals, it was very important for Butter Pudding to be in good company. That is what Work Shop New Town offers us. The brands that are here all pride themselves on well-made products that have local flavour and global appeal.”
Work Shop New Town houses over 100 local and African brands in its 42 stores and has been curated to be a commercial hub for the design industry. Curator Trevyn McGowan, whose company, Source, was brought on to design, curate and manage the space, says, “Joburg has never before had such a permanent concentrated retail offering of African brands. Through Work Shop New Town, we hope to see these businesses grow and develop as they collaborate and engage with like-minded creatives in this dynamic environment.”