A Joho countermall gets a quality overhaul

Kat van Duinen at 44 Stanley in Aukland Park, Johannesburg. (Oupa Nkosi, M&G)

Kat van Duinen at 44 Stanley in Aukland Park, Johannesburg. (Oupa Nkosi, M&G)

For years, developer Brian Green’s vision for sensitive urban regeneration has kept 44 Stanley a small but consistent space for quality dining, curated shopping and artisanal expression – a quiet home for local design that has no place in the Sandton Cities and Malls of Africa of Johannesburg.

In September, the centre reconfigured its spaces and introduced new stores, bringing its number of shops to 30, including a boutique hotel and a selection of fashion, dining, furniture, beauty, homeware and book stores. Here’s what’s new.

  Lift for Orange Babies

Lift for Orange Babies is a multidisciplinary design pop-up store that will operate until mid-November this year.

A creative partnership between A Better World Network, Metaphor Design, Breinstorm Brand Architects, A Rare Library, Adrienne Feldner and RoomService C, the pop-up has been set up to raise funds for Orange Babies, the South African branch of a Dutch nongovernmental organisation whose aim is to save the lives of babies and pregnant women with HIV.

“We were able to create this beautiful store full of interesting objects and arts because of the talented people who contributed to the initiative,’’ says director of A Better World, Samantha Manclarke.

The store houses fine art, prints, photographs, clothing, furniture and homeware by South African artists and designers including Sam Nhlengethwa, Pichulik, Kirsten Goss, Joe Paine, Lunar, Naked Ape, Row G, Black Coffee and The Atelier.

  Black Coffee

With a label that has been stretching the limitations of what contemporary African design looks like for the past 20 years, Jacques van der Watt is still one of the most respected fashion designers on the continent.

The new Black Coffee store at 44 Stanley is the second in Johannesburg and, on its first day of trade last month, hung pieces from Black Coffee’s new mosaic collection for Spring 2016/2017 inspired by the unlikely pairing of Gustav Klimt mosaic panels with the work of Moroccan artist Hassan Hajjaj.

  Kat van Duinen

Manclarke says 44 Stanley has always tried to attract diverse creatives into its mix of tenants. Kat van Duinen is a Cape Town-born label with high-end clothing, leather accessories and bags that price and otherwise didn’t really belong at its initial venue in Johannesburg, Workshop Newtown.

The luxurious fabrics and a minimalistic design aesthetic make this store, between The Three Mary’s and Salvation eateries, the one shop that will probably entice the Hyde Park patron to drive a little further out of the ’burbs.

  Mungo

Mungo is a linen lover’s dream with an interior that smells like an organised life.

The shop stocks kitchen accessories such as designer dishcloths and aprons, bathroom essentials, (cotton bath sheets) and bed throws with a difference, all produced in Plettenberg Bay.

A cautionary tip before you go: forget what you know about towels.

  House of Bespoke

This serene shop filled with conservative charm is a few months old and is a welcoming stop for affordable, locally produced work and weekend wear.

  Hotel QSL on 44

This concept boutique hotel, run by the team behind luxury menswear label Row-G, “fuses industrial elements with rarefied luxury and personal attention to detail, for instance, fully stacked Kindles and Netflix on demand”.

Other centres have tried to emulate 44 Stanley but have failed to maintain enough foot traffic to render the developments a commercial success.

Some developments such as 27 Boxes in Melville and Workshop Newtown, both of which opened last year, are spaces for independent artisinal businesses to develop without having to pay the hefty rents of mainstream malls. But within a year, a lot of the designer and indie concept stores have closed or moved to different locations.

Johannesburg is a particularly difficult city for small labels to have commercial success because of the popularity of mall-based shopping experiences.

When asked what makes 44 Stanley retain its foot traffic in a city-specific climate that has not historically nurtured the growth of standalone centres detached from malls, Manclarke says: “Driving traffic and customers with a disposable income is the greatest challenge we have. People want an easy shopping experience that includes parking, security and position.

“We strive to fill the spaces with interesting tenants that lean toward design, quality and aesthetics. The buildings lack any ostentation and have an honesty about them and to a large degree reflect the values of those that visit. We aren’t going anywhere!”

  Visit 44stanley.co.za for information on the other stores and restaurants

Milisuthando Bongela

Milisuthando Bongela

Milisuthando Bongela is the Mail & Guardian's arts and culture editor. She is a multi award-winning writer, blogger and collaborator. She has experience in the arts having worked in fashion, music, art and film as well as a decade-long career in consulting, entrepreneurship, blogging and cultural activism. She is also directing a documentary about hair and black identity, a film she calls the report card on the rainbow nation project. Read more from Milisuthando Bongela

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