Last year, Cape Town’s summer was rung in, for a lucky few, on the terrace of the Pichulik atelier in the East City, evidence of longer days apparent under a slowly darkening sky as we toasted their latest collection. Since then, the Pichulik studio, known for hand-crafting distinctive, treasured jewellery and accessories has moved into a two-storey building just off Bree Street in the City Bowl. It’s a flagship fitting of the brand’s growth so far and vision for the future where downstairs, all are welcome to the showroom and upstairs, the team is busy fulfilling orders or dreaming up what’s next. This was where summer was signalled once again at the end of October by a special selection of friends of the brand and guests of Soho House to celebrate a new Pichulik collection, Algiers. Arriving dressed up while it’s still light outside brings a certain excitement – the promise of festive days that couldn’t come sooner. This set the tone for a bright evening.
As designer and founder Katherine-Mary Pichulik and co-CEO Tracey Chiappini-Young welcomed guests, I noticed familiar faces: photographer Ané Strydom (whose birthday it was), fashion designer and collaborator Lukhanyo Mdingi, art curator Jana ‘Babez’ Terblanche – and reconnection became a theme for the night. I got chatting to Nwabisa Mayema who I last saw when I took her portrait for Pichulik (the brand often photographs the women who wear their pieces). She’s admitted to me before, and reiterated that she probably has every piece released and we wondered whether everyone invited would be wearing their favourites from past collections. Surely it’d be the thing to do. The front room of the atelier filled up as, uncommonly for Cape Town, everyone arrived on time and the hum of the room rose with the flow of the welcome drink: the signature, gingery Soho mule. More familiar faces appeared: artist Alice Toich; ceramicist, designer and shopkeeper Michael Chandler, entrepreneur and TV ‘housewife’ Rushda Moosajee, magazine editor Charl Edwards, to name a few. Each guest has their own special history with Pichulik, through past collaborations with the brand or new bonds made with Katherine-Mary known for establishing connections with the women who wear her jewels.
With a flourish, a white curtain was dropped and a second room was revealed where a capsule of the Algiers collection was artfully displayed. The series of installations were inspired by a family altar and incorporated ceramics by Vorster & Braye and a projection of Mariner of the Mountains. The film by Karim Aïnouz documents his personal journey to Algeria, his father’s homeland. It’s in this setting that we were welcomed by Katherine-Mary with a tale of two grandmothers. Every Pichulik collection is steeped in mythology, folklore, and story. This time it was more personal than usual as the Algiers collection took inspiration from the birthplace of Katherine-Mary’s paternal grandmother, Helene Anne Marie Hall née Rime, born in Batna, Algeria in 1924. However, she opened with a story about the pluck and self-determination of her maternal great-grandmother, Leonora Brody Jakobs. An entrepreneur and divorcée from Johannesburg, she met fate halfway sailing on the Queen Mary to England and with the help of some trusty sewing scissors, she turned her luck around and that of her descendants. With this, the theme of the evening was revealed: Calling the Ancestors. We were asked to take a moment to invite our ancestors to dine with us on an evening that celebrated embodying all the pieces – and people – that make up ourselves.
Luckily our ancestors didn’t need seating, as upstairs the usual Pichulik office was transformed into a very intimate dining space. The close quarters expedited getting to know each other and the small talk usually twittering at launches dissolved to make way for meaningful conversation and connections: like how to be an ancestor with no blood descendants, or what it means to be a cultural ancestor that keeps a dying craft alive, not to leave out the importance of knowing the time you were born.
A sentiment overheard on the night, ‘the universe only brings together a crowd who are meant to meet’, rang true. Guests sipped on the classic Soho Mule House Tonic, Soho House’s signature cocktail whilst chatting over the top of floral installations by Lana Fredericks from Myuzu in sculptural vases by Vorster & Braye, candles by Okra, all to a backdrop of soulful acoustic music played live by Italian singer-songwriter, Francesca Biancoli. The menu was inspired by Algeria and cooked by a team of women led by Annie from Shekinah Bake House. Where launches can often feel stiff and contrived, the Pichulik team and collaborators achieved an evening that was sentimental, authentic and inspiring. Like any good dinner party, the last guests left close to midnight.
As a keepsake, Pichulik sent us home with a fig-scented ceremonial candle – a collaboration with Okra – and a hand-stitched booklet of film photographs by Ané Strydom paired with prose and poetry selected by Katherine-Mary. On the last page is a question by Jonas Salk that lingered long after the party: “Are we being good ancestors?”. On a lighter note, I wondered if my late grandmother enjoyed the wine.
Soho House is a Members’ club for creative souls that began in London more than 25 years ago. Today, there are 33 Houses around the world, including Berlin, Hong Kong, Istanbul, New York, Paris, West Hollywood, Miami, and Mumbai, with new Houses planned this year everywhere from Bangkok to Mexico City. In Cape Town we offer a membership called Cities Without Houses (CWH) for those based in cities where we don’t have a physical House, who want access to the global Soho House offering