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Four stunning new businesses have been selected for the Design Lab at the V&A Watershed

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What to do Diana Seboke Zita, Janet Keramika, Rainbow Artz and Wilderblommetjies have in common? As well as local creative brands, all four have been selected by the Craft and Design Institute (CDI) and the V&A Waterfront to retail in the Design Lab store at the V&A’s Watershed. The four newly selected businesses occupied the premises in October 2022 after completing a training program conducted by CDI.

The Design Lab is a living retail ‘laboratory’ located in the vibrant V&A Watershed, Cape Town’s largest shopping area and a major tourist destination within the iconic V&A Watershed. The initiative also receives ongoing additional support from Business and the Arts South Africa (BASA).

The Design Lab is an annual program launched in April 2021 that supports creative individuals through dedicated support through training and mentoring. It helps creative entrepreneurs prepare for retail through real-world store experience in a supportive environment.

One-to-one business assessments, hands-on product support and business training are combined with comprehensive on-site training in store management, including merchandising and style, sales techniques and etiquette, banking, inventory and point of sale. Now, with some help from the hearts and pockets of the public, these creators can make their mark in the industry.

Here’s a little more about the four businesses that were selected:

Janet Ceramics by Janet Lightbody
Janet Ceramics creates beautiful, expertly crafted, high quality ceramics for the home. The business was founded by Janet Lightbody, who finds inspiration in life and is passionate about the people and nature of South Africa. As a child, she dreamed of becoming an artist, and today her life is her art. Her range of functional ceramics aims to inspire you to live the life you love. Janet Ceramics has supplied a wide range of innovative homeware stores at home and abroad, as well as interior design companies, playhouses and various galleries and art shops.

Rainbow Artz by Tavengwa Dahwa
Rainbow Artz specializes in wire sculptures, working with galvanized wire and telephone wire. Founder Tavengwa Dahwa uses multi-colored wire to create a variety of intricately crafted animals and functional decorative tableware. Born in Kadoma, Zimbabwe, Dahwa discovered his gift and passion by meeting other artisans who inspired him. As a child, he made cars out of wire as toys to play with, which turned into his unique, fun and evocative works of art. There is a spontaneity that gives each piece a sense of life and energy.

Diana Seboke Zita
Artist Diana Seboke Zita is originally from Limpopo and currently lives in Cape Town. She completed a fine arts degree at Nelson Mandela University and discovered her creativity during a crochet workshop in her final year at university. Since then, she has continued to develop and improve her technique. Her art of crocheting has allowed her to travel to places like Sri Lanka as the winner of the South African leg of the Society of Dyes and Colorists design competition. Her inspiration is drawn from the beauty of the past and living in the present.

Wilderblommetjies by Melony Williams
Melonie Williams founded Wilderblommetjies in 2018 after being part of the clothing design community for many years and working as a designer since 2003. The distinctive characteristics of South African wildflowers captured her heart and informed her vision of creating clothing for babies and toddlers. featuring prints, poems and color schemes inspired by wildflowers. Her passion is to create styles that children can easily move in while having fun. Wilderblommetjies has also designed for many other designer children’s clothing brands.

Why the V&A’s Watershed is the perfect location for the Design Lab:

The V&A Watershed is the best platform for new creative businesses. It is a beautiful and vibrant space in South Africa’s premier tourist destination, with over 150 tenants offering visitors over 365 brands. All this makes it an ideal location for the Design Lab, where an eclectic mix of undiscovered products and the appeal of new names on the design scene add richness and fresh excitement to the V&A Watershed’s existing offering.

“The V&A Watershed is home to African design and its tenants represent some of the most beautiful and creative local skills, each with their own story. The Design Lab program allows us to expand the opportunity for new retailers to test their products in the real world. In doing so, it creates a new pipeline of talented entrepreneurs who gain access to the market at the V&A Embankment,” says Alex Kabalin, Executive Retail Manager at the V&A Embankment.

Design Lab Success Stories:

The first cohort selected in 2021 for the Design Lab has generated sales in excess of R160,000 during their time in the opportunity. There was also support from Business and Arts South Africa (BASA) for key marketing activities to raise awareness and drive traffic to the store. Some of these businesses have also been given the opportunity to retail as part of the Cape Town Marathon Expo in October 2022, a major event in Cape Town’s annual calendar.

Fran Stewart, CDI’s Market Access Manager, says: “Through this initiative, we focus on the continued sustainability and growth potential of selected creative businesses; helping them with dedicated support to successfully and confidently stay in the market. The V&A Watershed consistently provides one of the most sought-after market access opportunities for creative entrepreneurs – we are proud to partner with them on this program to accelerate the development of local creative entrepreneurs.”

Hear from new Design Lab members here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-IP74DfxETw&list=PLiu5cDANvUaw9HuScwYY6PgsekRQ7yzqq&index=5

For more information, visit https://www.thecdi.org.za/.

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