Shop ’til you drop in Johannesburg

A selection of shoes on sale in Johannesburg

Shoe me the way

Jo Buitendag of Past Experience’s I Love Shopping Tour should come with a warning: 220 volts pure Joburg – shop at own risk.

Jo describes herself as an urban archaeologist who’s 1000% IN LOVE with Johannesburg, and you’ll feel it when she mainlines you into the veins of this frenzied, fashionable city.

Jo, whose own style is a retro mixture of Betty Boop meets Stoned Cherrie, gathers her flock of fashionistas at Market Street in central Jozi, and scarcely gives you time to catch your breath before plunging you into the manic multitude that is Saturday morning shopping in Johannesburg.

Pointing out gloriously restored Victorian buildings, leading you through a traditional African muti (medicine) shop, and peppering you with fascinating facts you never knew about Johannesburg, Jo takes you on a rollercoaster ride that sees you bargaining for Basotho blankets one minute, and boarding the Rea Vaya, bound for the Fashion Kapitol, the next.

The tour lasts 4 hours, but once you discover the treasure of cheap cheerful bargains to be had in Joburg’s fashion district, time seems shorter than one of Twiggy’s miniskirts.

Muti museum, Johannesburg

Potions 101 - the muti shop on Diagonal Street

The area around Jeppe and Troye streets is Fong Kong central. Unashamedly faux, knock-off, fake, call it what you like, the fashion here is fun, and frighteningly cheap.

Hole-in-the-wall shops overflow with ‘Made in China’ shoes, bags, jeans, dresses, hats, and accessories, while thumping kwaito tracks and the occasional in-store rapper hypnotises bargain-hungry shoppers aged 3 to 100 to shop, shop, shop!

Stand out experiences for me on the tour were the seamstresses from West and Central Africa, catwalk ready in their peacock-bright dresses who’ll sew you a fantasy for a pittance; and the fabric shops selling traditional shweshwe fabrics and TDF (To Die For) wax block print fabrics from Benin.

The fashion adventure ends on a predictably historical note at Joburg’s oldest pub – the Guildhall. Die-hard retail junkies, capable of 8 straight hours of mall trawling, all collapsed exhausted but elated by the whirlwind of colours, sounds, smells and culture we’d experienced.

Some addicts gulped down cold beers, loaded their purchases into their cars, and went back for round number 2!

Beaded evening bags

Ab-Fab bags

Not me. I had a Portuguese prego roll in one hand and an ice-cold Coke in the other as I tried to chew and comprehend the cultural washing machine I’d just passed through – on spin cycle!

A life-long shopper-phobe, I’d been reborn. Shopping really can be awesome. Beam me up Jo, I’m signing up to live on Planet Past Experiences.

Our Readers Comments

  1. Hi

    Please advise on where exactly i can find fabrics like the ones Shangans/ traditional healers wear.


    • Hi Masha,

      thanks for getting in touch!

      I would go to one of the South African local markets. You should be able to find the fabric there or ask one of the locals and they should be able to point you in the right direction.

  2. Hi, where exactly can we found wax block print fabrics in Johannesburg?
    thanks a lot

  3. Shopping really can be awesome.I’m born to shop~~I have met a lot of crazy shop lovers on,hope that I can take a fantastic trip to Johannesburg with these guys~

Have something to say...