For all its advantages – sun, beaches, mountains, world-class restaurants, a vibrant design scene – Cape Town falls short on fashion boutiques. Which is just the gap that Chantal Kerzner sought to exploit with Neo, at Cape Town’s One&Only resort. Her father is Sol Kerzner, the South African businessman and founder of the One&Only group. But this is no vanity project. And Neo is certainly no ordinary hotel shop.
Since opening in 2009, it has become a destination for label-hungry Capetonians seeking pieces by Stella McCartney (from R5,000, about £400), Balenciaga (from £560), Acne (from £168), YSL (from £600) and Matthew Williamson (from £576) – a friend who designed Kerzner’s wedding dress. And for visitors looking for something more indigenous, there are delicate sculptures, striking masks and elegant, woven bowls sourced from artisans.
“Whenever I went on holiday, I thought hotel stores very unimaginative,” says Kerzner, who lives most of the year in London. “Yet a hotel has a captive audience, so why not offer something fabulous?”
The first store opened in 2004 at the One&Only Reethi Rah in the Maldives – a second in Palmilla, Mexico. “I went to Bhutan, Thailand and India for four months to source amazing jewellery to mix in with the international pieces. I didn’t want customers to say, ‘Well, I could get that in Harvey Nicks.’”
The store in Cape Town is a reflection of the city: wealthy, eclectic, a little bit beach, a little bit urban glitz – black marble floors, lacquered black walls and gold-leafed pillars give it a night-clubby feel. There’s also a champagne bar and a listening station with headphones and CDs. Zebra-skin club chairs sit next to glass cabinets with gold pendants by African jeweller Zoya (from £150) and bracelets by US designer Chrome Hearts (from £1,247).
Alongside the fashion big hitters there are Lara Bohinc shoes (from £575) and Tomas Maier bikinis (from £280); but they’ve sold out of the espadrilles Christian Louboutin made exclusively for the store. For men, there are Orlebar Brown swim shorts (£144) and Maison Martin Margiela trainers (from £367).
High import taxes mean the best buys are on the rails devoted to African designers: bright kaftans by Colin Heaney (£527), a print dress with neon-perspex straps by Kenyan designer Lalesso (£400), a Lanvin-esque nude cocktail number by Lunar (£227), a jersey day dress by Black Coffee (£318). The African art includes masks (from £44) and Giacommetti-style bronzes (price on request).
The art pieces are among the shop’s biggest sellers. “Last week we had six amazing beaded dolls [£64] in the window,” says Kerzner. “A gentleman couldn’t decide which to have and ended up buying them all. When you shop abroad you want to find treasures.”