Michelle Loewenstein
3 minute read
27 Feb 2014
6:00 am

On gilded wings – design taken to new heights

Michelle Loewenstein

From tomorrow until March 9, Cape Town will host Africa's first Design Fair: Guild.

Presenting at the beginning of World Design Capital 2014, Guild will bring together limited edition design from galleries and institutions from around the world.

Founded by Trevyn and Julian McGowan, proponents of African design through their Southern Guild and Design Network Africa platforms, the exhibition explores the theme of “making” at an ele-vated, collectible level. We chatted to the pair.

How did you select the exhibitors for this event?

We’ve been exhibiting internationally for the past three years and have been introduced to some of the world’s best galleries and designers. For Guild, we invited some of our favourites, including R and Company from New York, Rosssana Orlandi from Milan and the V&A Museum from London, who all showed great interest in coming to Cape Town during the World Design Capital year. They’re all extremely interesting global voices and have inspired us as a gallery.


What five things do you look for when choosing an object for your displays?

Originality, narrative, excellence of execution, possibility for growth and visual excitement.

Why are you both so passionate about design?

It’s an area that fascinates us both. We share a great appreciation for spatial design and product design and, during our 15 years together, this interest has always been something that’s driven us. Now, we’re privileged to be at the forefront of a rapidly growing local design industry, where we’re able to catapult our designers to the highest level through our Southern Guild exhibitions and the Southern Guild Design Foundation.


What, for you, will be the highlight of Guild?

That we’ll be able to see, under one roof, for the first time ever in Africa, a collection of original, inspiring design voices from around the world. It will give visitors the opportunity to see what’s happening in Brazil, in comparison to, say, New York and Milan. And because of the nature in which they’re made, all these pieces are limited edition – more akin to art than mainstream design. What’s more, the Haas Brothers from R & Company in New York will be premiering many pieces of new work at Guild. The opportunity to attend the talks programme with elevated, inspiring speakers drawn from the participants will give an even deeper insight.

If you could give the world one message about South African design, what would it be and why?

Buy now. It’s not just about investing in a piece of furniture; when it comes to South African design, you’re buying into something that people around the world are flocking to own because our work is fresh, unique and meaningful. The pieces are also exceptionally well-priced in the global marketplace and collecting South African design right now makes excellent economic sense.

How has South African design evolved in the last 10 years?

It’s definitely started to change. It’s become an industry and movement that wasn’t there before. There were only a few big-name designers when we started out, but now our designers are able to feature at this incredibly high level (at Guild), following the establishment of Southern Guild.


What trends do you foresee growing in the next 10 years?

Technical developments in 3D printing will mean the creation of more practical and useable furniture pieces. But, on the flip side, there will be a greater resurgence of going back to the makers – like blacksmiths and carpenters. Handmade work will become even more important as it holds meaning for society.

What advice would you give to the average person when picking design pieces for their own home or collection?

Invest in something that doesn’t only solve an immediate problem – invest in pieces that can be passed on and that you’ll never tire of. Buy once, but buy well. Rather invest in one incredible piece than in many mediocre ones. As South Africans, it makes sense to buy work by local designers as this will have relevance and significance.