Ida Elsje on Designing Fine Jewellery & Her Favourite Cape Town Hangouts

Ida Elsje is arguably at the forefront of South African contemporary jewellery. Not only is her work regularly featured in South Africa’s top glossy magazines, but high-profile international publications such as Brazil Vogue and New York’s Superior Magazine have also filled their editorial pages with some of her handmade masterpieces. At the same time, her oversized earrings and elaborate head pieces have graced the catwalks of New York and London Fashion Weeks. Every piece of Ida Elsje Jewellery is created in her small studio on Cape Town’s bustling and centrally located Church Street (where her beloved dog Elvis keeps her company on a daily basis).

I spent five minutes talking to this jewellery genius about what inspires her, where she likes to hang out and her tips for aspiring jewelers:

What are your biggest vices? Records, Norwegian and Art Deco furniture and Fire King crockery.

Where does your design inspiration come from? Mostly natural shapes I see on my walks with my dogs, the shapes of flowers and tree tops, the curves of the mountains and pods. I love old and modern buildings and often find inspiration in the structure and detail thereof, such as tiling and railings.

What are your favourite eating/drinking/coffee spots in Cape Town? 

There are so many…

Advice for young aspirational jewelers? Grow your business organically, let the demand for your work determine the growth of your business. Listen to your customers’ dreams and create your own style.

Favourite way to spend a weekend? A weekend away with friends, long walks in nature, cooking together and sitting around long dinner tables and fires talking till the sun comes up.

Favourite city to travel to and why? Srinigar, Kashmir: where heaven meets earth. It is very peaceful and beautiful there, especially when you go into the mountains. I love the jewellery shops there – they are all covered in gold mirrors from wall to ceiling and have counters with chairs. You have to sit down and drink tea with kashmiri biscuits, before they start bringing out the trays of 22ct gold jewellery. I aslo love Berlin and Tel Aviv.

Ida’s work:

Ida is the head designer for my luxury jewelry brand Paka Paka.

Ida’s own jewellery collation (Ida Elsje Jewellery) is stocked at Olive Green Cat, Church Street, Cape Town, South Africa.


Fashion Photography Stephan Glathe, Styling Michael Cooper, Model Bailey, Hair and Makeup Alba Frei.  Product Photography Tim Atkins.


Best of NYC Fashion Week 2013

david-beckham-harper-beckham-anna-wintourThe week of 5-12 September 2013 saw the Spring 2014 collections of some of the world’s most influential designers unveil themselves to the world. Of course, most of us (including yours truly) would have been been willing to exchange a front tooth for a spot in the front row (or ‘FROW’, to those in the know) at Mercedes Benz New York Fashion Week. Personally, I would have called dibs on the seat next to David Beckham and little Harper (right there where dear old Anna W sat, at the VB show:)

Anyway, back to business, my thoughts on fashion, in a nutshell, are the following: clothes (as beautiful or sculptural or theatrical as they may be) are for wearing, not displaying in a glass case at a museum. Yes, that gets done too, I know. But – at the end of the day – fashion exists as a means for us to express ourselves, hide our flaws, accentuate our assets and feel fabulous.  And, in any event, as the brilliant Yves Saint Laurent once said, “fashions fade, style is eternal”.

So, with that in mind, I have taken the pieces I’d most want hanging in my wardrobe from this year’s September shows and created a little style gallery for you to view and, hopefully, draw inspiration from. Just click on any of the images below to flip through the pics in slideshow format.

Less Is More At Muji

simple_muji_wallpaper_by_longlong240-d4fazxkAs far as brands go, Japanese lifestyle retailer, Muji, is one of my all-time favourites. Most probably because it so seamlessly brings together the following four things: my obsessive compulsive neat-freak tendencies, my love of minimalist design, stationery and, last but not least, ridiculously good prices (it doesn’t matter how much money you may have, everybody loves a bargain).

But it’s not just me that adores this best-selling brand. Worldwide, Muji has reached a cult following amongst design-lovers, organizers and fans of all things Japanese. It’s easy to see why: they sell everything you never knew you always wanted, beautifully made and at barely there prices, e.g.:

1. a compact hair pin container (so they don’t go flying around inside your toiletry bag when traveling) at a measly £0.85;

2. a fabulously large, light-weight and waterproof zip-up toiletry bag at £5.95 (my boyfriend teased me about buying this for my father at Christmas last year, since it’s so cheap! But, alas, my globe-trotting dad had been so tired of lugging a heavy leather toiletry bag around with him that kept getting soaked in bathrooms and took up so much suitcase space. He was indeed a very happy gift recipient! That’s why I always say the best gifts are those that make someone’s life easier);

3. magnetic acrylic photo frames (they look super expensive but cost a mere £5.95 to £12.95, depending on size);

4. travel-friendly 100ml plastic containers for cosmetic liquids (we all know how pesky those airport security officials can be about liquids!) at £1.95 each;

5. all the coloured pens, pencils and highlighters your little stationery-obsessed heart can dream of.

Store Locations

London I can personally recommend the Muji on King’s Road at 118/118a Kings Road, London, SW3 4TR, United Kingdom (+44-(0)20-7823-8688). The concession in Selfridges, Oxford Street, is small but pretty decent.

New York City There’s a branch in Soho at 455 Broadway between Grand and Howard Streets (+1-212-334-2002). The flagship US store, however, is in the New York Times Building.

Other If you don’t live in London or New York but do live in North America, Asia or Europe, visit Muji’s Store Locator online to find your nearest branch or buy online from Muji USA or Muji UK.

Get Scandi-lous In London

If you’re into good design (really, really good design) and next find yourself in London, don’t miss the opportunity to visit Skandium on Brompton Road (near the world-famous and utterly fabulous department store, Harrods). Even if you can’t afford anything (prices range from £30.00 for a super-cool kettle to £3,000.00 for a designer chair) do yourself a favour and add this store to your sightseeing itinerary. With only the sleekest in Scandinavian design (including furniture by Fritz Hansen and home accessories by Georg Jensen) on display, your eyes will thank you…even if your wallet won’t.

PS If you happen to live in my home country (South Africa) and don’t have any plans for a London trip in the near future, I suggest visiting Entrepo for a limited but nevertheless covetable selection of Scandinavian home accessories (including items by Menu and Design House Stockholm, both of which are also stocked by Skandium).

Click on any of the images below to view them in a slide show format.

Great Fashion Suits Rachel Zane

From the first time I watched an episode of US legal series, Suits, I was hooked: it must have been a combination of the clever script, the quirky characters (especially the feisty Donna and dork-deluxe Louis), the ongoing dramatic love affair between Rachel & Mike and – of course – dear old Harvey (I have yet to meet a man, fictitious or real, who wears a suit better than him).

Every now and again, a TV show brings us not only a good storyline, but a particularly stylish character who makes us all drool with wardrobe-envy. Suits is one of those shows. Since today is Friday and nobody really feels like reading (or writing:) long blog posts, I decided to select a few fabulous images of the utterly gorgeous, impossibly well-groomed and super stylish Rachel Zane (played by actress Meghan Markle) just for fun.

She kind of makes me miss my corporate lawyer days…and being able to don well-tailored Joseph suits with killer Jimmy Choos on a Monday. (Click on any of the images below to view a slide show of these pics.)

PS If you love the layered gold necklace Rachel often wears to work and would like to get a very similar one, check out the Rachel Zane Diamond Necklace at my online jewellery store Sloane & Madison. You’ll be happy to know we ship worldwide.

Business Tips From Steve Jobs

If you read one book this year, make it Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. I have just finished it and I can honestly say that it has changed the way I look at the world. Due to its sheer volume, I elected to read this book on my light and user-friendly Kindle rather than attempting to make my way through the rather intimidating and seriously heavy hard-copy version.


As a bonus, this allowed me to digitally capture a few of what I deemed to be its most compelling business lessons, namely the following:

  1. Your goal should be to create great products or services, not to make money;
  2. Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication;
  3. ‘Impute’ your (product’s) greatness by making a memorable first impression on people. People do judge a book by its cover;
  4. Focus on creating a handful of ‘insanely great’ products, rather than 40 or 50 mediocre ones;
  5. A great carpenter isn’t going to use lousy wood for the back of a cabinet, even though nobody’s going to see it;
  6. People don’t always know what they want. They need to be shown what they want. Did Alexander Graham Bell do any market research before he invented the telephone?;
  7. Nurture and trust your intuition;
  8. A players like to work only with other A players, which means you can’t indulge B players;
  9. When people say things cannot be done, 9 out of 10 times they’re wrong; and, last but not least,
  10. The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.

Business lessons aside, what I found to emerge most strongly from Walter Isaacson’s unbiased and honest account of Jobs’ life, was the almost inescapable probability that those qualities that led Steve Jobs to create the world’s most valuable company (the obsessive, compulsive, near-impossible standards of perfection) are also those that, in the end, led to his premature death.

This book is, in my humble opinion, a biographical masterpiece that will teach you as much about business as it will about the human race.