Shoes with an original twist
Wild, colourful and quirky shoes are known to be found in the CBD
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.