Jewelry and Adornment

Lulu Kingsley, Designer Extraordinaire

Lulu uses a mirage of materials to design and crochet her bags including ropes, cables, fringe, African textiles, silks and tassels.

Lulu Kingsley uses a mirage of materials to design and crochet her bags including ropes, cables, fringe, African textiles, silks and tassels.

Lulu Kingsley, Creator and Director of Lulu K Designs, has designed just about everything and her life itself has maybe been her greatest design. Born in England but raised in South Africa, Lulu finished school and began in fashion design trading under the name Rizzo Clothing on the then, uber trendy Green Market Square. After her first child was born (Lulu is a mother of 4 beautiful creations) she moved to the UK where she designed anything from shop fittings to gardens. The landscape design led her to an Olive Farm in Spain where she and her growing family lived for 6 years before returning to Cape Town in 2008. Once she returned she began consulting in design until one day Lulu K began with a mere piece of red string. “I came across this cable, it was just a piece of red rope, and I started experimenting with different ways of using it. The look was amazing and I thought let me try to make a bag.” She had an incredible response and before she knew it she was making one-offs bags for people and the orders did not stop.

The Ixia, Crochet weaved cable over traditional African cotton fabric. As you wear it the item loosens to create a chic shape.

The Ixia, Crochet weaved cable over traditional African cotton fabric. As you wear it the item loosens to create a chic shape.

Through Lulu’s life, strewn across the hemispheres, it is clear she is willing to experiment with different mediums and environments. Sometimes being an outsider looking in really helps you to see the gaps or what is needed or even simply what really matters. Lulu says, “When I came back to this country (South Africa) I knew I needed to find a way to work with people from disadvantaged backgrounds.” She placed an ad on Gumtree choosing 4 ladies and she just gave them needles and materials. “I literally paid them to play, knitting and crocheting.” Though she was happy to be employing 4 women, she still wanted to be more involved with the townships. She found an incredible charitable organization, Ikamva Labantu, who work with pensioners in the townships. She got in touch with them and discovered that a factory had recently closed down and a lot of pensioners needed work. At the time in 2011, pensioners in South Africa only received R12,000 a year, less than $100 a month! This was not enough to survive and most of them needed another form of income. She was introduced to a small group of ladies, all in their mid-late 60s. Today Lulu employs 14 women in the townships as weavers making the bags.

Lulu and the Ladies who Weave for Lulu K. Each bag comes complete with a "Passport of Authentication" telling the buyer the name of the bag the person who assembled it and the date which is was made.

Lulu and the Ladies who Weave for Lulu K. Each bag comes complete with a “Passport of Authentication” telling the buyer the name of the bag, the person who assembled it and the date which  it is was made.

Lulu chooses to go into the townships rather than asking the ladies to come into the city to alleviate transportation costs and difficulties. For the last 4 years Lulu has gone in to various townships across the N1 and N2 highway on a weekly basis to work with the ladies.”When you go in and you see their environment, they are living in corrugated shacks, and they’ve got no money, but still they have a smile on their face. They believe in God. It’s very humbling.”Lulu says, ” It really makes sense for how bad your life isn’t, and it works the same way for them. They don’t think their life is bad. Their relationship bonds are much stronger as they have to rely on each other because they have nothing else to rely on.” Lulu concludes, ” As long as I can give an income to these women then it’s an income for my soul.”

A model from Lulu K's latest look book, holds a Dahlia.

A model from Lulu K’s latest look book, holds a Dahlia with fringe.

Lulu admits that in the beginning it was difficult to make ends meet with Lulu K. Although the business was growing, the materials, labor and marketing outweighed the turnover.  She remembers at the Design Indaba last year, “We weren’t ready. We didn’t have enough stock.” The demand was there and Lulu K received orders from several retailers in Europe, but the production wasn’t tight enough. At the next Design Indaba coming up in a few short weeks, they are now ready! Lulu has employed a head of logistics and a head of sales, giving her more time to concentrate on design and marketing.

Lulu K can now produce 10 of each style in a week. There ware 7-8 styles, though they are always being updated, changed or fixed. All the bags are named with African names: Adia, Ixia, Emem, Iris, Boniswa, Mbali, Dahlia, Nuru. Some are named after the ladies who make them and others, like the Mbali, with a beautiful meaning translated from Xhosa as “flower”. Lulu K bags can be found locally at the Watershed, Peach, The One and Only Hotel, Africa Nova, The Mount Nelson and Peacock Blue in Franschoek.

Lulu holds one of her newest designs not yet in stores, an oversized crochet woven clutch available in neon yellow, pink and orange lined in African fabrics.

Lulu holds one of her newest designs not yet in stores, an oversized crochet woven clutch available in neon yellow, pink and orange lined in African fabrics.

All the materials used for the bags are locally made, and Lulu even designs her own cables. She sits with the suppliers and adds a little bit of gold or thickens an already woven rope. “We play with things until we get the right mix.” Lulu explains.

Lulu  K has also started a range of outer-ware with crochet bikinis, short tops with larger crochet weaves and more recently a move into working with new materials of wool, bamboo and mohair for upcoming winter pieces.

Involved in even the making of the material, Lulu works with rope suppliers to custom design her own rope.

Involved in even the making of the material, Lulu works with rope suppliers to custom design her own rope.

For Lulu design seems to be an integral part of her life, always evolving and taking shape. She says she still has a dream to do shoes. Ugg sort of boots in a knitted cable. Lulu says, “It’s about finding the right people and putting the right people and materials together and creating something.” If Lulu’s entire life is anything to judge by, there is a lot more to come.

SILLAH, The African Trade Merchant

Sillah walks through his collections gathered across Africa laid out neatly for wholesale in Cape Town.

Sillah walks through his collections gathered across Africa laid out neatly for wholesale in Cape Town.

For months before I had met Bakary Sillah from the Gambia, I had heard of his legend. For he is legendary. How many men or women do you know that spend their lives traveling the African continent collecting tribal antiques and handmade craft from village to village throughout almost every country North of the Khalahari. He is rightly so a legend, but he s also a gentlemen with a true passion for his collections and knowledge that runs as deep as his ancestry. Although Sillah is originally from Gambia he now lives in Nigeria, though he is not at home very often. He travels mostly through West Africa: Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Togo, Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya buying all things traditional and exceptionally beautiful African. He excites the shores of South Africa with his treasures found only twice a year coming through Cape Town and Johannesburg for sometimes only a week at a time. If you catch him, you are lucky.

Yesterday I was lucky. Walking into Sillah’s showroom of sorts is a little overwhelming for a buyer, as there is just so much to see and so much of it is rare and beautiful. It is not what is typically found in the markets, but pieces that are attached to history or a tribe. African trade beads can be as old as two hundred years, Nupe stools from Nigeria could be up to 70 years old where upon many a soul have sat and discussed or done business. The Rwanda milk jugs have crossed villages for decades and the Mali jewelry boxes have not only held precious family beads but they have also acted as a protector for the women who have owned them. Even wooden beds collected in the Ivory Coast can be found at Sillah. These things have belonged to not only people, but to tribes and to history.

The entire floor of a second story old Victorian building in downtown Cape Town becomes a treasure trove of rare and traditional Africa craft for buyers twice a year for just one week. I ask Silah what he will do with everything once the week is through. He says usually there is nothing left.

The entire floor of a second story old Victorian building in downtown Cape Town becomes a treasure trove of rare and traditional Africa craft for buyers twice a year for just one week. I ask Silah what he will do with everything once the week is through. He says usually there is nothing left.

Sillah is the wholesale dealer to many established business owners  and designers in South Africa. While in his showroom yesterday, one of the buyers welcomed him back and gave him a hug while another on her way out laden with beads to make necklaces drove all the way from Kynsa (5 hour drive to Cape Town) to see him. For all that he has seen and all the wise people he has met he is humble and jolly and proud of his collections. After spending hours lost in the merchandise gathered from across the continent, Sillah shows me his most precious collection of beads. Chevron African Trade beads that cost R120,000/ $12,000 for one strand. When I ask him if he sells beads individually from the strand, he replies like any genuine collector would, No, he does not want to break the collection.

Sillah holds one of the baskets he collected in Ghana.

Sillah holds one of the baskets he collected in Ghana.

ONE-STOP Vintage Boutique SHOP OPEN through the HOLIDAYS (by appointment in Cape Town)

Custom- made brass rings with found vintage objects.

Custom- made brass rings with found vintage objects.

Whenever someone new discovers Shirley Fintz’s Vintage Boutique on Park Road in Cape Town, their words are generally of the same effect…this is a hidden gem in town! And that it is with the most beautiful authentic vintage, hand-picked and re-worked dresses from glitz to crochet, bohemian to 70s chic. You can ALWAYS find a beautiful piece at Shirley’s studio. Seriously.

Need something sparkly to ring in the new year? Find dozens of options at VINTAGE on Park Rd.

Need something sparkly to ring in the new year? Find dozens of options at VINTAGE on Park Rd.

Not only are there hundreds of vintage dresses to buy, but also a range of the best-cut bikinis designed and made locally by Shirley Fintz and Lyndi Cohen, African trade bead necklaces, custom made rings and a huge selection of not-run-of-the-mill belts in every color, shape, and size. Beyond clothes, you can also buy honey, raw food products, olive oil, soap, music and yoga clothes from the Gurumandas shop within the shop. It really is a one-stop, must-see shop in Cape Town!

Locally designed and made bikinis by Lyndi Cohen and Shirley Fintz. Tops and bottoms sold separately for R350 each.

Locally made and designed  bikinis by Lyndi Cohen and Shirley Fintz. Tops and bottoms sold separately for R350 each.

Shirley’s Art Studio and VINTAGE SHOP will be open by appointment through the holidays from Dec. 15- Jan. 15 2015 in Cape Town.

For appointments call AMY  0822648227.

It’s all in the NECKLACES by SHIRLEY FINTZ

Wearability, beauty and tradition are key components of Shirley's necklaces.

Wearability, beauty and tradition are key components of Shirley’s necklaces.

Shirley Fintz is more well-known for her ceramic art sculptures, but her necklaces which she designs from found objects, African trade beads and vintage glass are another unique and exceptional talent of hers. “The way I string the beads are what makes them nice,” she says humbly, but it is also her eye for finding the right beads and searching high and low to come across some of the rarest, oldest and most beautiful beads in the world today. In just one necklace intertwined are tradition, beauty, sentiment and sacredness making the wearer feel the wealth of what hangs around their neck.

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Shirley has aways had an appreciation for beadwork. She used to collect Zulu Beadwork, now a dying tradition and becoming more and more difficult to find. 10 years ago, Shirley started Monkey Biz as their Creative Director with a desire to keep the tradition alive and to develop new techniques, but also to create employment in South Africa. Shirley says she has been making necklaces her whole life (starting in Zimbabwe where she is from), but she became more passionate about beading as an art when she met “The African Trade Merchant, Sila”. She was always searching for special beads, ripping them out of a garment she would find or coming across one at a flea market, but Sila changed all that as he was the source of all things traditional African. He made the African trade beads available to Shirley in bulk hand-collected from across the continent.

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Thread through almost all of Shirley’s necklaces are African trade beads. Dating back to over 100 years ago, trade beads from Bohemia (Czech Republic), Amsterdam and Venice were traded by exploring Europeans for slave labor in West Africa. The beads became a form of currency in Africa and a sign of wealth. Chevron beads from Nigeria were worn by Kings and still are today. The more layers of glass the beads have the more expensive they become. They are not easy to find these days. They are very rare and a strand of the beads could cost up to R20,000 or $2,000. As Shirley puts it when describing rare beads, “they are not thick on the ground.”

Blue, white and red thick CHEVRON beads from Nigeria are some of the rarest and most expensive beads in the world today. Traditionally they are worn by Kings and centuries ago were traded by Europeans for slave labor in West Africa.

Blue, white and red thick Dutch CHEVRON beads from Nigeria are some of the rarest and most expensive beads in the world today. Traditionally they are worn by Kings and centuries ago were traded by Europeans for slave labor in West Africa.

Shirley sources African trade beads, vintage glass beads, vintage charms or anything she loves and can drill a hole into to craft her necklaces. She is inspired by beauty, but also by tradition and sentiment where or from whom things come from. “If it’s old and traditional and got a vibration I love working with it. I love the process of making something and the meditative state it can bring.” Shirley went through a phase of collecting vintage perfume bottles or lockets from the Victorian age (some still with locks of hair from those loved ones who had passed.) She has also gone through a phase of collecting vintage toy charms and creating necklaces from found tiny toys, but she always finds herself drawn back to African trade beads. “They (African trade beads) are so valuable, but they look like cheap sweets, not like perfect diamonds.” Shirley always includes one or two random little beads on her necklaces, she says as her signature, or a way to express her vision that beauty lies in imperfection.

One tiny random bead signs off a Shirley Fintz necklace. "I love to make a mistake," says Fintz of randomness and one off ness in her work.

One tiny random bead signs off a Shirley Fintz necklace. “I love to make a mistake,” says Fintz of randomness and one off ness in her work.

To view and purchase Shirley’s necklaces visit …

Amy on a Journey’s ETSY SHOP