GUILD International Design Fair Q & A

The GUILD International Design Fair takes place in Cape Town from 25 February – 1 March. Digital editor Carina Claassens chatted to fair director Trevyn McGowanGUILD design

What exactly is GUILD?

GUILD is an international design fair – the only such fair on the continent. Rather than just a commercial platform, GUILD is led by collaboration and exchange. We have various international designers working with local companies to create work especially for GUILD – pieces that will be premiered here in Cape Town before being exhibited around the globe. For us, the most important thing about GUILD is the building of a cross-continental design dialogue.

What does the name mean?

GUILD explores the theme of ‘making’ at a very elevated, collectible level. I think of a ‘guild’ as an association of people sharing the same interests and goals, formed for mutual aid and to maintain standards of excellence. Similarly, more than just a fair for beautiful objects, GUILD represents the coming together of dedicated, focused curators, designers and institutions who are striving to preserve and provoke unique, groundbreaking design.Original_2015226135534Cheick Diallo_Dibi Chair_Photo credit Karl Rogers_Design Network Africa

When and why did you found GUILD?

Since 2011 we’ve been showcasing collectable South African and African design alongside the best global galleries, on platforms like Design Miami, Collective and Design Days Dubai. We felt that Cape Town’s World Design Capital 2014 designation presented a unique opportunity to bring the world to Cape Town by us hosting GUILD for the first time last year. And now that legacy continues with GUILD 2015.

What do you want to achieve through the fair?

We want visitors to be introduced to the incrdible talent SA has to offer, while at the same time showing how brilliantly we fare alongside the high calibre of international designers, curators and galleries on show. We hope to educate our audience about design while showing them how accessible and enjoyable such functional collectible design can be. Through our Designers on Site and Design in Process programmes, we are excited to have visitors get an inside view into how and why designers do what they do. My Fair Director Guided Tours are also aimed to give guests a deeper insight into the fair exhibitors.

Describe this year’s fair. What can visitors expect?

So much authentic design… Some will be represented as solo works, while there are also very exciting collaborations taking place. The Haas Brothers’ (R & Company) Afreaks collection, which has been created in collaboration with Monkeybiz beading company and Bronze Age, is sure to be a highlight (see image below).


The collaboration between Lebanese siblings Carlo and Mary-Lynn Massoud (Carwan Gallery) and Imiso Ceramics and Bronze Age, is also something to look out for. It’s called Autopsy, and is based on the Massouds’ fascination with African fertility dolls.

GUILD feature artist, SA-born Kendell Geers (Carpenters Workshop Gallery) will be showing off his design pieces for the first time in SA, something we’re so excited to have at the fair (see image below).

Kendell Geers

Southern Guild will continue to fly the flag for local collectible design by some of our favourite South African designers, while Design Network Africa will introduce a new group of designers from the continent as it launches its next phase of the programme at GUILD. And then, there’s also the retail gallery ARTISAN by Watershed, which brings a curated collection of pieces from the V&A Waterfront’s new home for local craft and design to GUILD.
We’re also having Studio Swine (London Connoisseur) and a host of South African artisans create pieces on site, so there will be some great action to witness. And The Maker Library Network will be bringing its mobile library to the fair on Thurs 26 Feb for visitors to engage with. It’s all rather exciting!

What makes African design so exceptional?

African design is having its moment as there’s a strong trend toward primal, earth-bound sensibilities when it comes to design. The language of design is harking back to a narrative that illustrates a more authentic approach – handmade, limited edition, bespoke design rather than mass-produced, soulless pieces. Now that we’ve hosted World Design Capital 2014, the world knows more about what our designers are capable of and they’re seeing this narrative is ever-evident in African design.

How is the fair being received internationally?

So well! We have a host of international journalists from top magazines attending, as well as collectors and museum curators from around the world. It’s great that GUILD is on at the same time as the Cape Town Art Fair and other art- and design-related events, as this is exactly what an international audience expects – a host of activities that keep them enthralled for a week.

Tell us about the economic impact GUILD has on South Africa.

The revenue stream for South African design exports has been growing year on year. At a time of recession, when other categories may be in decline, this is a remarkable movement and one we want to propel. That the ranges from the collaborations being premiered at GUILD are being produced on the continent is a strong economic boost. Work on The Haas Brothers collection, for example, has generated permanent employment for craftswomen who would typically produce ad hoc pieces at irregular intervals, while demand for Gone Rural’s weaving expertise means that rural women are able to provide financially for their families. Gone Rural works with over 750 Swaziland-based artisans.

GUILD has opened the floodgates for South African and African designers to work alongside the best in the world. Seeing the work presented side by side highlights just how far we have come.

Where exactly will GUILD be held this year?

GUILD will be housed at The Lookout, on the corner of Granger Bay Boulevard and Dock Road, at the V&A Waterfront, Cape Town. The setting is absolutely extraordinary, facing directly out onto the Atlantic Ocean with breathtaking views of Table Mountain, Robben Island, the Greenpoint Stadium, Cape Town harbour and Granger Bay.

The deck at The Lookout will be transformed into The Striped Horse, a beautiful bar area where visitors can while away the day. We also have a delicious food offering from Vagabond, so a visit to The Lookout during this time will be extremely enjoyable for the entire family.

There’s a parking bay right at The Lookout, but we also have a free Art & Design shuttle bus, courtesy of City Sightseeing, that will be stopping at GUILD every half hour, as well as at the Cape Town Art Fair and Zeitz MOCAA, and the CTICC, so visitors can experience a whole host of activities in one day without having to drive back and forth themselves.
We can’t wait to welcome you to GUILD!