Theme: Sustainable Design

Davis Ndungu grew up on Lamu Island in Kenya, where he would see women collecting flip flops washed ashore, turning them into soft, colourful jewellery items. It stimulated his imagination, and he began sticking discarded flip flops together in the shape of blocks, and carving animal shapes from these. When he relocated to Cape Town, and eventually opened a store at the Watershed, tourists flocked to procure the multi-coloured wild beasts that would remind them of their visit to Africa.

One of those 2018 visitors was singer Miley Cyrus, with whom Ndungu has a selfie. “It was the most memorable event when she came to my shop. It gave me a platform for people to know about me,” says the artist, who has, since that burst of publicity, received commissions and flip-flop supplies from a host of retail brands. Last year MRP asked customers to donate old flip flops which Ndungu transformed into a life-size rhino, lion and zebra for three MRP stores, raising awareness around sustainability. PEP also began supplying Ndungu with its damaged flops, and he is currently partnering with popular Brazilian flip-flop brand Havaianas.

However, with the impact Covid-19 has had on travel, Ndungu is fast turning his talent to other products, producing yoga blocks, woven mats, lights and stools with his extraordinary flip-flop material. “If I don’t localise my product, I’ll have no one to sell to,” says the proactive designer-maker. “It’s about experimenting and finding solutions.”

100 Beautiful Things is presented by the V&A Waterfront in celebration of South Africa’s creativity, compassion, ingenuity and resilience. Every week we will be showcasing five amazingly beautiful creative things that make us proud. It is curated in partnership with Platform Creative.