THERE were lashings of dark stockings, tall heels, mini-skirts and plenty of gorgeous people. The launch of the new concept store, Malva, was the place to be on Tuesday night.

Malva, a hip store which is to become “your one-stop spot for living, working and breathing”. Malva, a hip store which is to become “your one-stop spot for living, working and breathing”.
In February this year, developer Jonathan Liebmann, the creator of the popular Arts on Main, started renovation work on his newest baby, Main Street Life. The first phase of the development is the opening of Malva, a hip store which is to become “your one-stop spot for living, working and breathing”.

Malva takes up space on the ground floor of the seven-storey building on the corner of Fox, Maritzburg and Main streets, just a block or two east of Arts on Main. The store is to give customers “organic fashion, gourmet cupcakes, pop-up theatre and delectable design”, says developer Lauren Wallet, Liebmann’s wife.

“The Malva store is a space like no other: a space to showcase your designs, while shopping for something gorgeously unique, and submerging yourself in creative brilliance.”

She adds: “Just imagine walking through the pages of your favourite glossy magazine – home, decor, fashion, art and theatre all in one shop!”

Those high heels and mini-skirts seemed to agree. Wallet says the opening evening was very positive. Over 400 of the in-crowd turned up. Northern suburbanites, apprehensive about coming into the CBD, were knocked off their feet by the relaxed atmosphere at Malva and Main Street Life.

“They were walking in the street at midnight, and couldn’t believe it – they are getting over their initial fear of being in the city. It was beyond their expectations,” adds Wallet.

High-ceilinged room
Malva consists of a 205m2, high-ceilinged room painted in neutral grey and dripping with designer chandeliers. Custom-designed furniture is littered around the room, interspersed with racks of designer clothing and novelty items.

Trendy decor, clothing, and decadent cupcakesTrendy decor, clothing, and decadent cupcakes
Wallet has sourced exclusive designers in Durban and Cape Town, who are supplying the store with must-haves like leather lamps, unusual jewellery and creative chandeliers.

Visitors are greeted at the entrance by wide concrete counter tops that make up the coffee shop, to be called The Cupcake Factory, where decadent cupcakes – enough to make the head spin and the taste buds do a somersault – will be arranged on dreamy multi-layered cake stands.

She is keen to have a new theme in Malva every month, keeping everything fresh and novel. “I want people to come and spend a couple of hours here – it’s not just a shop but an experience.”

At the back of the room is a courtyard, planted with trees and scattered with chairs and tables. Off the side of the room is a theatre space where 50 chairs hold the promise of interesting indie movie evenings. It is a space that can also be used for theatre or stand-up comedy.

“The space will be used to showcase creative talent that people won’t get anywhere else,” explains Wallet.

And she is wasting no time in getting things going. This weekend a one-act play entitled Mein Soldat, will be performed from Thursday to Saturday. Also on Saturday, seven international Spanish artists are due to meet the Soweto Spiritual Singers, violinist Tshepo Mngoma, guitarist Bheki Khoza and others.

Main Street Life
Main Street Life is to complement Arts on Main – a venue providing the city’s major galleries with satellite gallery and performance space – by providing the creative industry fundis with trendy accommodation. There are 140 one-bedroomed studio apartments, 25 two-bedroomed apartments, and, in between seven penthouse apartments, 12 boutique hotel rooms, to be called The 12 Decades.

Twelve designers and artists have been asked to each design a room, taking a theme from the 12 decades that Johannesburg has been in existence.

Wallet and Liebmann have moved into the apartment building above Malva, taking one of the seven penthouses.

“We moved in four months ago, and absolutely love it,” says Wallet. “It is close to anything I need.” Woolworths is in Commissioner Street; Eastgate Mall with other shops is six kilometres away, and Killarney Mall is 3,5 kilometres away.”

There are still apartments for sale, although all the penthouses have been sold. Two-bedroomed apartments, of around 70m2, are going for R490 000, while one-bedroomed studio apartments, of 35m2, are selling for R290 000. The two- and one-bedroomed apartments can be bought either furnished or unfurnished.

Arts on Main
Arts on Main, a collection of five warehouses re-created to provide studio space, has been very successful. It picked up a Halala award in the Relaxing and Playing Joburg category last month, for the “use of new and old buildings to provide unique recreational spaces”, in a creative and innovative way.

William Kentridge is the anchor tenant at Arts on Main, and galleries taking space include Bailey’s African History Archives, the Goodman Gallery, the David Krut Gallery, the Seippel Gallery, the Goethe-Institut, and the Nirox Foundation. A literature project called Right on the Rim offsets the art space. Arts on Main is buzzing with activity and creative energy.

The nearby August House complements Arts on Main and Main Street Life, providing studio and living space for some of the city’s artists, including Gordon Froud, Mary Sibande and Diane Victor.

The Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA) has spent about R24-million on revamping the area around Arts on Main.

The JDA also replaced the paving around the block, planting trees and erecting concrete bollards. Liebmann has picked up the lead, and planted trees outside the Main Street Life building, softening the hard lines of the industrial structures surrounding it.

Story: City of Johannesburg