JOHNO du PLESSIS
HAND-STITCHED COWHIDE / LEATHER RUGS, FURNITURE + ACCESSORIES — MADE IN SOUTH AFRICA
THE 21st CENTURY
I had already discovered Cape Town, back in 1997, when commissioned to write about the “new Miami”. I returned every year thereafter, each time for a more attenuated sojourn, until, bowing to the inevitable, I bid adieu to my northern existence and, in 2002, re-established my long-dormant residency in the — at this point — relatively new New South Africa. For the first time in my peripatetic life, I now owned a house. And no furniture! I’d naturally been interested in interiors for many years, but this time it was personal...
By now I had it all: hobnobbing with the fabulous and living the highlife — trotting the globe writing city guides for Select and spending as much time in Europe as in the US as in some far-flung destination, seldom in one place for more than a few weeks. Answered prayers, no less. Yet, as the millennium drew to a close, so did I — exhausted from over-working and -partying; in need of glasses and going irremediably deaf; irritated with the fabulous and sick-to-death of aeroplanes. The time had come for things to change!
I was born ten weeks after kick-off into this gruesome decade — a time when atomic bombs were being tested with gay (albeit macho) abandon and, ever since, have used secondary-fallout as the perfect excuse to mitigate my obvious and innumerable character flaws. There're those who’d contend that spending one’s formative years, first in Grahamstown, then in Bloemfontein, then finally in Queenstown could be seen as justification for any kind of aberrant or abhorrent behaviour.
An undeserved insurance settlement for a squashed VW Beetle was sufficient for an airline ticket to London. Not even my platforms and bell-bottoms prevented me from getting on that 'plane! Initially, waiting tables and an assortment of unsavoury occupations kept things afloat; by the latter part of the decade I’d managed to forge a reasonable career as a photographic stylist — a job description not nearly as universally understood back then as it is today. At last I’d discovered The Creative Life, to which I would cling tenaciously forevermore.
Following fashion, photography and my nose, I moved to New York where, with two newly-acquired associates, we founded Select, a respected, cutting-edge trade publication for the commercial photographic industries in Europe and the US. The Manipulator, a consumer magazine, soon followed, as did the Century, an hotel in Miami’s then-burgeoning South Beach district, to which, by 1989, both a restaurant and beach-club had been annexed. Finally, my name was on the guest-list at every door that mattered. (And, believe me, it mattered!)
And so to Pretoria where a stable homelife, good schooling and national conscription failed utterly in saving me from the privations and pitfalls of the era. By the closing year of the decade I’d eschewed further education, family values and conventional wisdom, and was alternating between a life of disco and drugs with the other dissolute denizens of Hillbrow, and the slothful, carnal joys of a hippy commune festering in vegetarian squalor somewhere on the outskirts of Johannesburg.