African Images carries fascinating artifacts from all over Africa: mosaic murals of Nelson Mandela, chickens made from plastic shopping bags, antique tribal footstools and headrests from Ghana, Ethiopian Coptic crosses and brightly printed fabrics.
Atlantic Art Gallery
Riva Cohen, who has run the Atlantic Art Gallery for more than forty years, knows everyone and everything in the South African art world, and her gallery is full of treasures, both on the walls and stacked up against them. She shows works by both up-and-comers and well-known South African artists like Willie Bester, John Kramer and Mark Midgley. Wander around and ask questions; Cohen is a veritable font of information about South African art.
For those who love leather handbags and wallets, Cape Cobra is the shop to hit in Cape Town. It sells bags in a huge variety of colors and shapes in exotic skins—crocodile, ostrich, python and lizard—that have been obtained under the regulations of the endangered species act. The same pieces would be easily five times the cost or more in New York or London.
Handmade dolls and other Monkeybiz beaded items are available at Carrol Boyes, a boutique that carries gorgeous pewter flatware, which makes great gifts. Boyes’s pieces have even reached New York—there is a shop on SoHo’s Prince Street—but they are much cheaper at the source.
Cecile & Boyd Showroom
The designers who became famous for their interiors at Singita have a showroom in Cape Town that is located in an historic Arts and Crafts house in Tamboerskloof. Its rooms are filled with the global treasures, furniture, lighting, accessories and the fabulous flamboyant touches that have wowed guests at the five-star Singita properties. Open 9-5 Monday to Friday and 9 –1 on Saturdays
Clementina Ceramics has a wonderful and ever-changing selection of artisan work and pottery, some of it by the owner, well-known Cape Town artist Clementina van der Walt. This includes dinnerware and more decorative pieces as well as interesting art. There's also has an outpost at the Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock which carries work by Clementina van der Walt and other South African ceramists.
Everard Read Gallery & Die Kunskamer
Two of Cape Town’s most prestigious galleries share a space close to the Waterfront. South African art is still inexpensive by U.S. standards, and if you’re a collector, it’s well worth going to look at the current exhibitions. Both galleries are run by very knowledgeable directors who will take pleasure in offering some context to the artists they represent.
Make an appointment to stop by this bespoke perfumery. Tammy Frazer uses organic African sources, traveling as far as Mali and Madagascar, to create ready-to-wear scents from coffee and orange blossom, nutmeg and jasmine.
This boutique, located in the southern suburb of Claremont, is one of Cape Town's fashion success stories. For more than two decades, it has sold chic party dresses in African-themed prints.
This renovated, turn-of-the-century building on Long Street holds three floors of crafts and treasures, from costume jewelry and whimsical bags to bold ceramics and stationery. It's a fun trove to explore for inexpensive gifts.
This pottery gallery in the Biscuit Mill exhibits the distinctive clay work of South African artists. Imiso means “tomorrow” in Xhosa and was founded by Andile Dyalvane and Zizipho Poswa. Behind the exposition space, which features sculptural objects as well as tableware lines, is a studio where you will find artists at work in clay, so you can witness wares being fashioned. Among our favorite lines is the handpinched collection by Poswa.
The name stands for Less is More, a mantra embraced by owner Pauline Mutlow, who carries furniture and lighting and wonderful collectibles such as brass plated vases that look like organ pipes and antler horns to add a twist to a mantelpiece.
Luxury Africa Atelier
Located in the Foundry, this new gallery space showcases many of the region’s top talents, including photographers Marius Coetzee and Graham Springer. The space also displays the Ndau accessory collection and silver by Patrick Mavros. A highlight is the jewelry by Charmaine Taylor who has turned pieces of the barbed wire fence used at Robben Island prison into jewelry and art.
The owner of this concept shop hails from France and wanted to re-create a touch of Paris in the Southern Hemisphere with her striking new concept store: some of her favorite global brands like Chloe and Malin + Goetz are showcased over three floors of a beautifully appointed heritage building, where you’ll want to linger for hours.
Merchants on Long
Set in a handsome 1896 Victorian building on Long St., this gorgeous store from taste maven Hanneli Rupert sells crafts, clothing, jewelry and homeware produced by artisans and small business people across Africa. Pick up anything from perfumes to bead bracelets to weave baskets, and marvel at the tusks, taxidermy and other quirky décor.
The talented ceramic artist Mervyn Gers opened a shop in 2013 to display his lovely wares. The bowls, dishes, platters and urns come in a powerful range of palettes that are only highlighted by their texture.
The colorful intricately beaded dolls made by women from local townships have already arrived in New York and London, where they cost a lot more than they do at their headquarters in Cape Town's Bo-Kaap neighborhood. The work is truly beautiful, and the organization helps the women and their families emerge from poverty and become skilled craftspeople.
This beloved South African textile company is the brainchild of Stuart Holding, who started weaving on antique looms as more of a lark than a business endeavor. He considered his workshop or barn a “working weaving museum” when he first started out, and 30 years later, he now has a mill, employs 60 people and has shops in three cities. As sustainability, social responsibility and quality are key to the brand, each shop contains looms so visitors can see how the products are made, and the team is eager to share the company story. The lightweight blankets and beach towels are favorite items.
Mungo + Jemima
If you’re interested in getting a sense of South Africa’s fashion scene, head to this sleek boutique on Long Street. The racks are full of local designers’ creations, and the owners also carry a line of accessories. Expect chic, very wearable clothes in well-made, beautiful materials. Closed Sunday.
If you only have time for one shopping excursion, make it the Neighbourgoods Market at the Old Biscuit Mill on a Saturday morning. The market, on a rather insalubrious stretch of industrial properties, has become a weekly ritual for many Capetonians. Go early and eat breakfast at a communal table at the bustling market, which sells fruit and vegetables, artisanal vinegars and honey, pancakes and coffee, nuts, seeds and pestos. Try to resist loading yourself down with goods (or not; I managed to bring a bottle of fynbos vinegar and a jar of ginger honey back in my suitcase—both supremely impractical), then head to the shops in the refurbished Old Biscuit Mill complex. Stop first at Heartworks; it has an irresistible collection of local ceramics and crafts.
If you are looking for a special-occasion outfit, go to the doyenne of South African couture. This airy boutique, in the southern suburb of Newlands, has elegant one-of-a-kind creations and a broad assortment of garments.
This wire-sculpture cooperative showcases a South African craft form often seen on the streets; if you like haggling, buy a beaded chameleon or an adorable SAA aircraft from a street vendor. But at Streetwires, you can see artisans making the objects, which can range from key rings to chandeliers, and there’s no pressure to buy.
African crafts and souvenirs are hawked on every corner of the city; for something more unique and inspired, head to Collections on buzzing Long Street. The airy, two-level boutique carries a well-edited collection of African collectibles sourced from around the continent; expect handmade furniture, Carrol Boyes tableware, porcupine-quill lampshades, contemporary jewelry and original art. This boutique owned by Milene Rust carries a vast selection of African made products ranging from beaded Xhosa jewelry and rare ivory ornaments to contemporary animal-focused ceramic and bar ware collections. Rust has been sourcing African tribal crafts for more than twenty years and works with private clients to source everything from antique textiles and beadwork to tribal weapons.