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Trevyn McGowan: The design connoisseur


Trevyn McGowan @mcgowantrevyn is an example of masterful evolution and reinvention, having to date had three very distinct careers - as an actress, in interior design and now as the CEO of the The Guild Group which is bringing South African design to the forefront of the global marketplace.


Trevyn started acting at the age of 8 (in South Africa) and after completing Standard 8 (Grade 10), she headed to London where she studied acting at The Royal Central School of Drama. She worked as an actress until the age of 30, after which she decided that she had spent enough time in the industry and quit. Trevyn helped a friend from the performance industry refurbish and design the interior of a new apartment in Clerkenwell, an up-and-coming, trendy neighbourhood in London at that time, and this lead to her being sought out by one person after the other and ultimately resulted in her establishing her own architectural and interior practice which she ran for almost 10 years, before changing course yet again.


It was whilst holidaying in the Wilderness area that she commented to her husband, Julian, that she would love to live close to the ocean one day. His response was a simple, “Why wait?” Shortly afterwards they bought a home in the area and relocated from the UK back to South Africa. This locational change signaled the start of The Guild Group, with the establishment of the group’s first design endeavour, Source @sourcedesign , the leading agency responsible for the majority of exports of design products from South Africa to leading retailers around the world such as The Conran Shop, West Elm, Jamie Oliver, Anthropologie, ABC Carpet and Home, Bergdorf Goodman, Restoration Hardware, William Sonoma, Liberty, Sundance and many others. In 2008, the group founded the Southern Guild Gallery @southernguildgallery, the only gallery representing locally made limited-edition design in South Africa. The success of the gallery lead to it being the first African gallery to participate at Design Miami in 2011 and also the first to be featured in Christie’s London’s annual design auction. The group which is lead by Trevyn as the Chief Executive Officer and her husband as Chief Creative Officer, has undertaken a number of other initiatives in the area of design in South Africa. These include: consulting to property developers to create new marketplaces focused on local design, such as the Watershed at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront, contributing to the development of the local design industry through initiatives such as the Design Foundation and launching GUILD, Africa’s first international design fair, in Cape Town in 2014 to build closer ties between South African producers and the global design community.


Trevyn, who is also a mom of five, tells us that initially they ran their business out of Wilderness only moving to Cape Town in 2014, and that building a creative business of this nature does not come without its challenges - for example, sometimes an idea is too early and the market is not yet ready whilst other times you find yourself expanding very quickly (such as going from only 6 to 36 staff in 18 months in one stage of their growth phase!) but ultimately it is about balancing what works against pruning what does not.


We are inspired by Trevyn’s seamless transition through three very different careers and are impressed by the tremendous impact she and her team have had on the South African design space, both with how they have lead the way with internationalising it and how they have assisted in institutionalising design locally.

When she is not trailblazing in the design space, Trevyn is an oenophile, much preferring South African reds.


Featured artist: Janine Du Plessis @whimsicalstudio

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