Shoes with an orig­i­nal twist

Wild, colour­ful and quirky shoes are known to be found in the CBD

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - BRON­WYN DAVIDS

IT TAKES the per­fect pair of shoes to put your best foot for­ward.

And no one knows that bet­ter than As­sane Diop and Zeyna Cisse, a Se­nage­lese hus­band and wife duo who are the go-to peo­ple when the well-heeled of Cape Town are in search of the per­fect pair.

The cou­ple are the own­ers of two quirky shoe shops – one for men, the other for women – based at Grand Cen­tral near the trans­port hub in the CBD.

It’s there that cus­tomers’ wildest shoe fan­tasies come to life, in an ar­ray of colours, bling and de­signs that are enough for passers-by to do a dou­ble-take be­fore in­evitably go­ing into the shops for a closer look.

The shops, which are tiny and tri­an­gu­lar in shape with just enough space for two peo­ple to stand in, are named Touba Ndorong, af­ter the Sene­galese vil­lage where Diop grew up and from where he mi­grated to Cape Town 18 years ago.

Both shops spill onto the mall space next to the es­ca­la­tors and cus­tomers pop into them briefly, make their choices and perch on foot­stools on ei­ther side of the door­way, to try it on.

The shelves of shoes on dis­play re­veal every con­ceiv­able colour, shape, pat­tern, size and height, all vy­ing for at­ten­tion in what must be the tini­est shoe shops in the city.

His shoes ap­peal to both a wide and a niche mar­ket of shop­pers.

“When I put to­gether a col­lec­tion in Thailand and China, I just make a con­nec­tion with what is fash­ion­able. The African ‘ ma­mas’ like the lower heeled slip-ons with sil­ver or gold beaded tops to go to church and for wed­dings. There are beaded bags to match,” Diop said.

“The Con­golese like the colour­ful pointy court shoes.

“The ma­tric­u­lants like the gold or sil­ver shoes with plat­form heels and the South Africans like the flat leather shoes.”

When it comes to the more flashy shoes on sale for fash­ion­able gents, Diop’s brother, who lives in Turkey, ships out the bling gear for the de­signs.

Diop said they are made for men who like to ooze at­ti­tude and pride them­selves on look­ing dash­ing in un­usual three piece suits and colour­ful, shiny shoes that make state­ments.

Cisse also knows her cus­tomers’ tastes well.

“They al­ways send me the pic­tures of their event or they al­ways come back to show me how they looked and tell me how it was,” she said.

Cisse has a fond­ness for her South African cus­tomers who are ma­tric pupils, and has de­signed a range of metal­lic coloured shoes with beaded net fab­ric tops, some with 9cm high plat­forms and 15cm or 18cm high stilet­tos or wider per­spex heels which are more com­fort­able for first-time wear­ers of heels.

“When my hus­band goes to China, he takes my de­signs for the ma­tric shoes and they make it up there and they put my name on a la­bel in­side the shoes,” Cisse said.

“Be­fore they buy the shoes, I tell the girls to try both shoes, to see if they can walk with it but if they try it on and they can’t walk be­cause it is too high, I al­ways ad­vise them to try lower heels.

“Es­pe­cially the ma­tric girls who want to try some­thing dif­fer­ent and it is their first time wear­ing higher heels.”

The high­est pair of heels on dis­play is 21cm high with 16cm on the plat­form, a style favoured by ex­otic dancers who like to defy grav­ity on the dance floor and on the pole.

“The strip­pers like the 21cm heels too. Some of them tell you they are strip­pers,” Cisse gig­gled, “and some of them just come and buy and won’t tell you.”

Cisse’s shoe jour­ney be­gan af­ter her hus­band be­gan sell­ing his shoes, and was then asked by a fel­low trav­eller if he did not want to buy five pairs of ladies’ shoes.

He dis­played the shoes and they sold within days.

Not shy of ven­tur­ing into new ter­ri­tory, Diop be­gan his wild and won­der­ful jour­ney into ac­quir­ing his shoes.

There are bro­cade-cov­ered shoes to gem­stones pro­trud­ing from pointy stilet­tos, to thigh length denim boots, all con­cen­trated in the two very small spa­ces.

There’s even a range of bling ac­ces­sories, from sun­glasses and clutch bags, to jew­ellery to match.

“Be­fore, South Africans they did not know these kinds of shoes but be­cause of Face­book and In­sta­gram, they see what is hap­pen­ing in the world of fash­ion and what is com­ing out in the USA. Now, they walk past here and see that’s what Nicki Mi­naj was wear­ing in her video and they come in to buy. Or some see some­thing in a video and they come look­ing here for the shoes,” Cisse said.

Lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional models and tourists have also found their way to the shops.

One in­ter­na­tional model comes from Aus­tralia every year and stocks up on shoes, which range in price from R200 to R1 800.

Brook­lyn hair­dresser Bi­jou Sal­imba, who moved to South Africa from the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo a decade ago, said she has a col­lec­tion of seven pairs of Touba Ndorong shoes.

“I love it be­cause it is new fash­ion. Very nice with dif­fer­ent styles, shapes and colours,” she said.

Cisse men­tioned that be­cause the two shops are small, they have stor­age space else­where at Grand Cen­tral.

All in all, the two tini­est shoe shops in Cape Town are pretty cheer­ful places, amid the of­ten dreary hus­tle and bus­tle of that part of the city.

NUM­BER 34 Long Street might look charm­ingly old-fash­ioned to­day, but it was one of the first steel­framed build­ings in Cape Town, built on the site of an old ware­house. It was de­signed by the Ger­man­born ar­chi­tect Antony de Witt, a lead­ing light in early South African ar­chi­tec­ture and who, ac­cord­ing to the web­site Arte­facts, was re­spon­si­ble for a num­ber of com­mer­cial build­ings and do­mes­tic houses, in­clud­ing the fa­mous Spookhuis in Mil­ner Road, Ron­de­bosch (1904). The Long Street shop, T Gib­son & Co, was built in 1896, and uses im­ported pink terra cotta for the shopfront. De Witt’s other build­ings in­clude the Delponte Build­ing at 34-38 Loop Street, the Ho­tel Metropole in Long Street (1895 – now Grand Daddy Bou­tique Ho­tel and sub­stan­tially al­tered) and Lennon’s Build­ing at the top of Long Street (1896). A de­pres­sion hit Cape Town af­ter the An­glo-Boer War,


Above and be­low are some of the amaz­ing shoes avail­able at a tiny shoe shop in Grand Cen­tral.

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