Young South African designers 22.02.16

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A new generation of designers is bringing a sense of community spirit to inner city Johannesburg, writes Cathy O’Clery

November 2015 saw the opening of Work Shop New Town in the long-neglected inner-city district of Newtown in Joburg. Celebrating the local fashion and design scene, the complex has been curated by Trevyn and Julian McGowan, a pair who have helped to put many South African designers on the global stage through their companies Source and Southern Guild.

Joburg-born product designer Joe Paine is part of a collaborative gallery at Work Shop New Town called The Kraal, and his work is representative of this new spirit. “Our inner-city landscape is constantly being made and destroyed based on how we manage social input,” says Paine. “My work is similar – I find it important that users build a relationship with a product through tangible functionality. How it’s used is as important as how it looks.” His latest piece, the dressing station Radio Googoo, is a homage to local radio towers and satellites dishes. Sculptural and stripped, it is engineered to be functional with a mere nod to the decorative.

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Joe Paine’s Radio Googoo dressing station

Other pioneers of the industrial style are Adriaan Hugo and Katy Taplin of Dokter and Misses. Despite attention-grabbing collectables like the Kassena cabinet range, the core of their work is community-based, with desking for schools and tertiary institutes executed in a stark, urban aesthetic. Dear to their hearts is a new collaborative project, the Isabelo bench, created with young entrepreneur Louise Meek. The solar-powered, free phone-charging station and wi-fi bench with lighting is designed to enhance community and encourage inner-city growth.

Dokter and Misses will be headline designers at 100% Design South Africa in August. The show’s creative director, Laurence Brick, says, “The rest of Africa comes here because our design speaks clearly to them as they are undergoing similar developments in urban growth and there is a renewed interest in afro-modernism. The biggest market for our designers is the rest of the continent.”



Cathy O'Clery


Above: The Isabelo smart bench by Dokter and Misses

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Our inner-city landscape is constantly being made and destroyed based on how we manage social input

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