Virtuoso Life March 2018 City Secrets: Johannesburg

City Secrets: Johannesburg

The Potato Shed. 
The Potato Shed. 
Photo by Clara Tuma. 
Culture makers in some of the world’s most sophisticated cities share their hometown picks. 

He’s something of a legend in South Africa for his bold-patterened knitwear inspired by his Xhosa heritage, but Laduma Ngxokolo’s designs for his MaXhosa by Laduma line have a global following as well. He was heralded as African Fashion International’s Emerging Designer of the Year in 2014, Vogue Italia showcased his work at the Palazzo Morando in Milan in 2015, and Beyoncé has featured his designs on her website. The designer moved his business to Johannesburg from his hometown in Port Elizabeth two years ago to grow his brand.

“Joburg is an example of what I do, trying to fuse my heritage and spin it off in a modern way, so that people can wear it every day,” Ngxokolo says. “Joburg has that, and also has a global cultural presence mixed with it.”

Creative Oasis: “The Maboneng Precinct is a spot I like because of the diversity that’s there, and also the grungy design and the events that happen within that area,”Ngxokolo says. This revitalized stretch of the gritty city core has become a landing spot for Joburg’s creatively inclined residents. (Visitors should note that, much like Rio de Janeiro, Johannesburg has dangerous zones. Stick to safe areas and use car services to move around the city.) “Comedy clubs, exhibitions, markets, and the creatives that live around the area make it a super-interesting place. I like the food and atmosphere at Pata Pata, and the steak and decor at Che Argentine Grill.”

Inspired Outing: "For inspiration, I often go to the Wits Art Museum," Ngxokolo says. “They’ve got quite a big collection of Xhosa beadwork,” he adds, referring to the traditional designs of the Xhosa people, one of South Africa’s largest cultural groups.

Contemporary Art: "I go to the FNB Joburg Art Fair every season,” Ngxokolo says of Africa’s leading art exhibition, held at the Sandton Convention Centre every September and featuring prominent galleries from across the continent. “Contemporary artists from Africa and the African diaspora come and exhibit their work.” Ngxokolo keeps an eye out for the work of Tony Gum – whom Vogue once called “the coolest girl in Cape Town” – and Athi-Patra Ruga, whose art has been shown everywhere from New York to London to Dubai.

Designer to Watch: "I like an up-and-coming designer called Rich Mnisi. He has a masculine style that’s unisex and also fused with a little bit of African touch,” Ngxokolo says. “I think that’s what makes him appealing – he’s different to the others. He has a studio in Joburg.” Fans can shop for his designs at Woolworths stores or at; for custom pieces, the designer makes house calls.

Jazz and Streetwear: "The Orbit is a lifestyle jazz bar where you can buy CDs, drink, listen to live music, and interact. It’s in Braamfontein, which has a young streetwear culture.”

South African Design: You can browse Ngxokolo’s distinctive designs at his boutique in Work Shop New Town, a sleek retail center carrying South African designers. “It’s a great creative space for us to be in,” he says. “We’re a one-stop shop for buying locally produced products – there’s Family Tree, a streetwear brand created by hip-hop artist Cassper Nyovest, and Era, a watch store by DJ Zinhle. I’m excited about a new barbershop called Legends. And two doors away from us is The Potato Shed, where I have my business meetings. I order the steak and fries – they specialize in potatoes.”

Stay: In a tony area that’s home to tycoons and diplomats, the Saxon Hotel, Villas, and Spa
has become a retreat for global A-listers – think Oprah Winfrey and the Clintons – as well as Joburg’s movers and shakers, who congregate at its restaurants. The 53-suite hotel’s decor skews modern African, and South Africa’s top chef, Luke Dale-Roberts, opened its fine-dining restaurant.

Cruise: AmaWaterways’17-day journey through East Africa includes time in Johannesburg before and after a four-day game-viewing sailing on the Chobe River aboard the 28-passenger Zambezi Queen. Time at Victoria Falls and on safari in Tanzania and Botswana rounds out the itinerary. Departures: Multiple dates, March 11 through November 18.

Laduma Ngxokolo, fashion designer. 
Laduma Ngxokolo, fashion designer. 
Photo by Clara Tuma. 

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