Trevyn McGowan, together with her husband Julian, promotes South African design in the global marketplace. Her involvement as curator of The Watershed, opening at the V&A Waterfront this month, sees this representation reach new grounds. CTE.com chats to her about this exciting platform.
Tell us briefly about your experience in the design industry and your involvement with The Watershed?
In 2003, my husband Julian and I started SOURCE, an agency that exports South African design to international stores like The Conran Shop and Anthropologie, and now we are responsible for 70% of local design exports.
In 2012 we started Southern Guild, a platform for collectible local design, which allows us to exhibit these limited-edition pieces at international design fairs such as Design Miami and Design Days Dubai.
In 2014 we launched Africa’s first international design fair, GUILD, bringing some of the world’s leading design galleries and institutions to exhibit in Cape Town. Because of our immense passion for local craft and design, and our committed involvement to this industry, we were chosen as curators of The Watershed, being tasked to select the tenants who will be operating in this new retail space at the V&A Waterfront.
What has The Watershed journey been like – from idea to reality?
It’s been incredible to work with the team at the V&A Waterfront as we see this big dream become a reality. When you see the vision that Wolff Architects has for the space, and the way in which this building has been created to house so many different facets of design, and then still offer a huge exhibition space and offices and a graduate school, it really is an incredible achievement. As promotors of local design for over a decade it has been an honour to select so many of our favourite brands to be in one beautifully designed space.
What has been its biggest challenge?
Narrowing down the incredible applications we received to just 168 tenants.
How did you go about selecting tenants?
We invited all current tenants of the Red Shed and Blue Shed to apply, and invited a whole new group of local designers to send in applications too. We received over 350 applications, and sat through various curatorial sessions with the V&A Waterfront team to select what we feel is the most well-rounded offering of everything from fashion and jewellery to ceramics and furniture, art and craft, textiles, gifting and children’s products.
Before such platforms as The Watershed and SOURCE and design initiatives like Design Indaba and World Design Capital, how was local/South African design been represented? Was it even?
Before we started SOURCE, international representation of South African design was very disjointed. It was difficult for people to find what they were looking for. Obviously Design Indaba has always created extraordinary growth locally. But now more and more people are understanding the importance of supporting local design and are appreciating that we have incredible talent in this country because it really is right here under our noses.
In your opinion, how important is it to drive local design? And what’re some of the ways this is being done?
It’s super important for people to understand that the quality of product they can get locally is very often greater than the things they seek overseas. The Watershed will definitely drive this awareness and also provoke new product and brand growth, because never before has there been one permanent venue on such a large scale selling only local products. We’re also opening a Southern Guild gallery in Woodstock later this year, which will offer the opportunity for people to view collectible South African design all year round, which we believe will grow appreciation for local talent even more.
What excites you most about Cape Town right now?
Cape Town is just exploding from a design perspective and cool factor. We’ve just moved here after 11 years of living and working from Wilderness, so we’re absolutely ready to explore the city and all its gems. It’s a city we’ve always gravitated towards, but it’s always been work, work, work when we’re here. Now that we can call it home, we’re looking forward to sharing it with our children too.
See our blog post on The Watershed here.
Where Dock Road, Victoria & Alfred Waterfront
When Open to visitors from 7 October 2014
Photography Rory Keohane/HSMimages.co.za