Tuesday, February 8, 2011

your local merchant

Awesome new shop in Cape Town

34 Long Street, Cape Town City

A haven for shoppers in search of Africa’s elite fashion, art and accessories

While living and working as a fine artist in Europe, local lass Hanneli Rupert decided to head in a new direction: designing handbags and opening her own authentic contemporary African store. ‘I love painting but I wanted to do something more structured. I love marketing as a practice and I think that sometimes the marketing and way we represent ourselves abroad is terrible. I don’t think that the sophistication of South Africa comes through. The ethos behind the handbag line, Okapi, and the shop is quite similar – it is about bringing the best of African design and brands together.’

Hanneli’s aim was to create more than just a retail space, she wanted a salon- style, concept store where people can shop, but not feel pressured to buy and just enjoy a cup coffee. ‘It’s not just about selling beautiful things, I mean, we are selling beautiful things, but all the products come with such a great story to them, and I hope the shop in itself attracts interesting people with interesting stories’.

The products are not the only items with a great story… The Art Nouveau building Hanneli chose for her store has been a retail outlet since the 1800’s when Strand Street was literally still a ‘strand’ – and she says she found it by fluke. ‘The building is perfect. It was a gallery before, and I walked in one day and it was for sale. It is as old as the castle, built from the coffee cliff slate from Table Mountain. They only put on the terracotta façade at the turn of the century in about 1903.’

Many of the products stocked in the store have never even been sold inside this country, even though they are African, and Hanneli explained that some of the retailers said they just couldn’t find a place that suited their brand. ‘Sometimes I have to bring in the products from abroad, even if they are made in Africa, because they do the quality control in England or something, but all the brands are African.’ Her store offers high-end African products such as perfume, clothing, costumes, art, jewellery, hats, shoes and homeware. Even her organic coffee is sourced from Africa.

‘I think we really appeal to a wide range of people. There is a very wide price range and everything is good value for money even if it is out of some people’s budgets. I don’t want to sell things that will fall apart, so people who are after good quality, sophistication and international standards.’

‘I am always looking for new and exciting but fashionable brands.’ Hanneli plans to launch her new range of handbags this month and shoppers can also look forward to new retailers such as Sawa, a Camaroon shoe brand and Masaai, a Kenyan jewellery brand.

If you want to plan a private shopping function and meet some of the designers, just give her a call. 021-422-2828

The above entry is the unedited version of the article that appeared in the khuluma magazine.

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