Consider this: Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront is the most visited site in Africa – more visited, even, than the pyramids of Giza. That fact speaks volumes about the power of retail. And it’s not been lost on South African entrepreneurs Trevyn and Julian McGowan.
Harnessing that power to highlight Africa’s distinct cultures through its most talented makers, this summer the couple launches Guild, a design gallery and concept shop in the V&A’s Silo District. Located next to Heatherwick Studio's new Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, the new space combines their existing retail and exhibition businesses in one whitewashed 400-square-metre warehouse, and uses their curatorial skills to showcase African art and design at its most covetable. Guild, also produces an in-house range of furniture.
The opening is the latest milestone in a gradual, organic expansion for the Guild Group. The McGowans have been working with South African designers since 2003, when they began exporting homegrown design to retailers like the Conran Shop and Anthropologie. With their inaugural group show 'Stellar,' they've invited designers like Hamed Ouattara of Burkina Faso and Cheick Diallo of Mali into their stable, to exhibit alongside established South African names like Porky Hefer, Gregor Jenkin and Dokter and Misses.
'Stellar' exhibition at Southern Guild
Next year the McGowans will celebrate a decade in the collectible-design racket. ‘With our collectible design gallery established nine years ago,’ says Trevyn, 'we’ve taken limited-edition African design globally, where we present at fairs like Design Miami, Collective and Design Days Dubai and work with institutions like the Cooper Hewitt.’ The anniversary exhibition will feature solo presentations by Justine Mahoney, Andile Dyalvane, Conrad Hicks and others.
Meanwhile the new flagship will carry on the mission of the couple’s Cape Town-based design fair, also called Guild, by inviting international galleries like London’s Carpenters Workshop and Beirut’s Carwan to exhibit ‘on our home turf,’ says Trevyn. ‘It really allows us to showcase to the world what South Africa can offer from a design perspective.’