Hanneli Rupert wanted to bridge the world of fashion and the culture of Africa, Merchants on Long is a celebration of the region's style tradition. Located in the center of Cape Town, this eclectic concept store boasts a diverse collection of fashion, housewares and art from African designers and artisans. Tammy Tinker, Former Vogue UK Fashion Girl made it back home to Cape Town to work on promoting the best of African fashion for Merchants on Long.
Hanneli Rupert, Merchants on Long Boutique Owner
What inspired you to launch Merchants on Long?
After being away from Africa for almost five years I decided to return home to start Okapi. I started to look into all of the exciting brands being made on the continent as market research but was disappointed to see that not all of them were readily available locally in Africa from that I decided to open an African multi-brand store to service not only tourists but African consumers also.
How would you define the boutique's philosophy?
The philosophies behind Merchants on Long and Okapi are similar. I believe in the emotive power of objects ? a step away from excess. That if you want to own something today it should mean something. All of the brands we represent are made entirely on the African continent and create employment ? I believe in giving people a chance not charity. It is also a step back towards what I think is true luxury ? bespoke and handmade.
You say you looked to the past for inspiration in designing your store; which historical periods do you particularly love?
I am a big fan of history; I think it is integral to understanding who and where we are now. I tried to incorporate all of the eras and cultural influences that the Merchants on Long building had already been through into the interior design I did in the shop. I would say that rather than redecorating the space I tried to take it back to how it might have been when the fa?ade (for which it is most recognized) was imported from Edinburgh to Cape Town. This was at the turn of the last century and so there are clear Art Nouveau influences. I am also quite taken with the more esoteric and ritualistic African ideologies, which come through in a perhaps slightly deep South Americana way with saloon doors and neon.
What are some of your favorite items the boutique carries?
It would be impossible to pick one or two brands above others but at the moment I am wearing a lot of ?& Banana? jewelry and Frazer Parfum. I carry Okapi bags.
What about Cape Town has changed the most in the last decade?
Cape Town is an inspiring city on so many fronts. The nature is primordial and like a living artwork. The city itself has evolved on so many fronts. It has re-developed it?s caf? culture and with the snowballing brain re-gain we are getting more and more creative entrepreneurs coming and opening exciting small businesses in the city. There are a lot more foreigners who have relocated to Cape Town and so even though it is relatively small it feels very international.
What is your favorite Cape Town secret (a great neighborhood, city ritual, walk, beach etc.)?
The secret to Cape Town is to acclimatize to the slow pace of life. In terms of my own personal city ritual it would probably be- Not having a plan;
Taking a road trip ? the whole city is so beautiful;
A fullmoon hike up Lion?s Head is an un-missable thing tourists always seem to miss.
What are some must-know addresses in Cape Town for:
For Daytime relaxation, Kirsetnbosch for a picnic; Bakoven Beach for private swimming and The Hout Bay Market for hippy vibes.
For Chic Lunch, The Grand Beach or Bungalow for upbeat or The RiverCafe for slightly more grown up vibe.
For a Big Night Out, This really depends on the time of year ? Cape Town is a small city so asking around is the best thing to do. Caprice is a safe bet to start off at and find out where to go on from (in the summer). Upper Long Street is young and ?New Orleansy? in vibe and pretty much always full!
For the Hip Scene, Woodstock where all the best art galleries are now.
What are your favorite spots to visit outside of Cape Town?
I love Paternoster and Bikini Beach in Gordon?s Bay.
What should no first-time visitor to Cape Town miss?
1. Climb Lions Head or if you?re lazy drive up signal hill with a bottle of wine and some olives for sundowners.
2. In summer a swim in the freezing sea at Bakoven or Beta Beach
3. The vineyards in Franschhoek
4. The art galleries in Woodstock
Princess Beatrice of York with Hanneli Rupert at the Merchants on Long Pop Up Shop at Bluebird
Your pop-up shop in London's Bluebird was a huge success. What future projects are in the works?
At the moment I am concentrating full time on Okapi (www.Okapi.com) my handbag line. I am planning the bespoke section of the company so customers can customize their own bags at trunk shows and online!
What creative ventures are you working on at the moment?
We have some very exciting collaborations happening with Merchants. A few secrets in the pipeline are Aponomous leathers and Laduma knits, Schier shoes and Ardmore fabrics. We are also launching Merchants Caf?, which is oh so exciting I cannot wait!
What are your three favorite off-the-beaten track stores in the world?
I love Church in Cape Town, Maireids- Appointment only vintage shop in London, and finally I love the little designer vintage shop on Thompson street in New York- i think its 112 Thompson street. Spent far too much money in all three of those...
What is your favorite vacation destination? Where do you stay when there?
Summer at the Walsh?s House. They always throw the best summer France parties! Oli is the founder of discovered and Jess is the jewelry editor at Tatler- together they are the perfect creative match! Everything at the Walsh?s is phenomenal.
How would you describe your personal style?
Simple, understated. I love my white T-Shirts!
What are three things you have to bring every time you travel (aside from necessities like phone, wallet, passport, etc.)?
My Isabel Marant scarf given to me by my adopted big sister Alessandra Steinherr, Cashmere socks-love them on the plane, and a great book.
What are your top three picks from L-atitude?