Contemporary craftsmanship

Homeware from Morrocan retailer LRNCE was also available.
Homeware from Morrocan retailer LRNCE was also available.

Custom made. Handcrafted. Words that make the luxury connoisseur tingle with anticipation. And, of course, those who might not be experts but prefer well-made products that are worth the money spent on them. How many times does one overhear the words: "I had it specially made or there's no two of these alike."

Those who value craftsmanship were treated to a spectacle this past weekend during the annual Sanlam Handmade Contemporary Fair. It was held at Hyde Park Corner and although the weather misbehaved, throwing icy cold showers that this journalist was not dressed for, the mood under the tents was unaffected.

Admirers and consumers wandered through various stalls filled with beautifully wrought, handcrafted materials from designer lounge wear from Bena, to Moroccan homeware by LRNCE and jewellery by Sidai Designs.

It was a veritable smorgasbord of homeware, fashion and food displays. While weaving my way among patrons, I came into contact with Tina Ngxokolo, owner of a fashion line by the same name and a first-time exhibitor at the fair.

Ngxokolo has a women's and children's range and also manufactures jewellery. She was wearing one of her beaded, turquoise pieces, which melded well with her burnt orange jumpsuit, also from her range, her dreadlocks piled in an up-do. She looked, excuse the cliche, like a modern-day African queen.

Tina Ngxokolo's calling is fashion and her mother is the root of her inspiration.
Tina Ngxokolo's calling is fashion and her mother is the root of her inspiration.

"I mainly draw my inspiration from our Xhosa culture in the Eastern Cape, omama still wears umbhaco even today. So, that's always been the root of my inspiration."

Ngxokolo says her mother has been the biggest influence in terms of her getting into the fashion industry. The 33-year-old studied fashion design at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. She's had her label for 10 years now. She feels that she understands women and wants to cater to them with her clothing.

"The Tina Ngxokolo woman would be someone who is an everyday woman, who is facing everyday challenges but wants to still look daring, still wants to look powerful [and] still wants to look like they're really going through the day being a woman."

The mother of two says blending the children's range was a natural progression allowing the brand to become more of a lifestyle brand.

If her name seems familiar, you might have heard of her brother Laduma Ngxokolo of the famed Maxhosa label. She works with him as a production manager and as creative director.

Pan-African cuisine by Chef Coco was available at the Epicure stall.
Pan-African cuisine by Chef Coco was available at the Epicure stall.

When I asked how the fashion business is coping with the current financial situation in the country, she was positive about the future. "I believe challenges will always be there, I also believe that without them we will also never know how strong or how capable we are, they can never be really wiped out, however, they allow for more creativity, they allow for a more human touch."

After wandering the many clothing and homeware stalls, it was time to follow my stomach and get something to eat.

At the food pavilion was another impressive exhibitor, Chef Coco of Epicure. A charming individual who mischievously said he had 75 years of experience in the food industry, while not looking a day over 35. He went on to explain that the cooking bug bit his grandfather who then gave it to his mom and she to him

"At Epicure we do only Pan- African food, so you should expect all the African tradition on a plate but it will be plated in a very modern way."

He was inspired to open Epicure due to his travels on the continent, he wanted to share his vision of Africa with the rest of its people, by creating a high-end African restaurant.

A necklace from Sidai Designs, who were also exhibiting at the Sanlam Handmade Contemporary Fair.
A necklace from Sidai Designs, who were also exhibiting at the Sanlam Handmade Contemporary Fair.
Image: SUPPLIED

"I think our African cuisine is there; for me there is no cuisine that is better than the other one. Everybody has great cuisine, it's just the way of presenting it, making it modern and making it appealing to the eye. These days we first eat with the eyes."

The restaurant has been open close to six months and Chef Coco says one of his highlights was having former US president Barack Obama eat at the establishment when he was in the country for the Nelson Mandela lecture.

"For me to present African food to someone like him . that was really a highlight."

And what did the former number one citizen of the First World have? "He was very simple ... he had chicken with morogo and peanut butter."

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