Shot in the arm for lo­cal fash­ion

Show can be a cat­a­lyst to re­vive ail­ing trade

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - BUSINESS - REBECCA JACK­MAN

SOUTH African de­sign­ers pre­par­ing for Mercedes-Benz Fash­ion Week Cape Town, which starts in less than two weeks’ time, have the dual re­spon­si­bil­ity of not only putting on a beau­ti­ful show, but also help­ing re­build what was once a thriv­ing in­dus­try.

That’s ac­cord­ing to Cham­ber of Com­merce hu­man re­source port­fo­lio chair­man Michael Ba­graim, who said Fash­ion Week and sim­i­lar events were vi­tal against the back­drop of a provin­cial fash­ion and tex­tiles in­dus­try that has been “dec­i­mated” in re­cent years.

“It’s im­por­tant to fo­cus on lo­cal at this time, in or­der to reestab­lish the for­mer glory of the in­dus­try,” he said.

Also a long- time labour lawyer, Ba­graim said that, based on his own client base, the in­dus­try in terms of lo­cally-pro­duc­ing retailers and fac­to­ries had de­clined to about a third of what it was in the 1980s and 1990s.

Events such as Fash­ion Week, he pre­dicted, could act as some­thing of a cat­a­lyst to the re­vival of the in­dus­try, which was once the back­bone of Cape Town’s econ­omy.

Now the tourism in­dus­try has taken that num­ber one spot, but Ba­graim said Cape Town re­mained the fash­ion cap­i­tal of the Western Cape, South Africa and po­ten­tially even Africa.

At­tract­ing more de­sign­ers to the city could, in the longer term, mean more fac­to­ries, which would feed into the in­dus­try, even­tu­ally of­fer­ing South Africans op­por­tu­ni­ties to buy lo­cal cloth­ing at af­ford­able costs, he added.

Un­til the 1990s, cloth­ing and tex­tiles was the big­gest em­ployer in the Western Cape, with thou­sands of peo­ple em­ployed in fac­to­ries in Wood­stock, Salt River and Ob­ser­va­tory.

“We’ve been bleed­ing for the last 25 years, shed­ding peo­ple, by re­trench­ing, dis­miss­ing and clos­ing down,” Ba­graim said.

Jenny le Roux, the force be­hind “Mostly made in Cape Town” brand Habits, ad­heres to the idea of keep­ing their brand “lo­cal” and “lekker”. She said that show­ing at Fash­ion Week was ben­e­fi­cial to her brand, at­tract­ing lo­cal at­ten­tion and see­ing on­line sales soar.

But she adds that the costs to show pro­fes­sion­ally are high.

“Where to start? I get ex­tra mod­els – I think at the mo­ment they are R2 000 each per show, plus I need ex­tra mod­els for trial runs. Any ex­tra light­ing is for our cost, and shoes can cost any­thing from R299 to R2 999. Some of my de­signs are re­ally for ramp only, not sell­ers. We also pay for mar­ket­ing ma­te­rial, the DVD of the show and the ramp pho­to­graphs,” she said.

Added to that was the cost of de­sign­ing and de­liv­er­ing in­vi­ta­tions, and staff over­time for the “40- odd bods” who will in­evitably work late nights, re­gard­less of how much plan­ning is done.

There is also the af­ter-show party, which Le Roux said wasn’t a fash­ion show cost – but with just one show a year, “one must get as much value as pos­si­ble”.

Fash­ion Week or­gan­iser African Fash­ion In­ter­na­tional (AFI) is the “lead­ing fash­ion au­thor­ity on the African con­ti­nent and is com­mit­ted to the pro­mo­tion and de­vel­op­ment of the best South African and African de­sign tal­ent”, ac­cord­ing to its web­site.

The com­pany said they worked hard to cre­ate “lead­ing, world-class plat­forms (in­clud­ing Mercedes- Benz Fash­ion Week Joburg, Cape Town and Africa) aimed at driv­ing the growth of the in­dus­try and the sup­port of tal­ented de­sign­ers”.

Last year the Cham­ber of Com­merce put out a call for South Africans to buy lo­cal goods, not just in terms of fash­ion, but also gen­er­ally. And Ba­graim said the re­sponse had so far been pos­i­tive.

“There is a strong feel­ing of pa­tri­o­tism that is start­ing to creep into our psy­che.”

But there were still com­plaints that the stock of cer­tain stores was mostly im­ported. With Eastern im­ports be­ing cheap and ar­riv­ing in bulk, peo­ple could not al­ways af­ford to buy lo­cal – “and that’s where it falls apart at the seams”.

This year’s Mercedes- Benz Fash­ion Week Cape Town takes place from Au­gust 7 to 10 at the Cape Town In­ter­na­tional Con­ven­tion Cen­tre. Up to 30 de­sign­ers will show their Spring/ Sum­mer 2013/14 col­lec­tions. This year’s theme aims to cel­e­brate the strength of “Fash­ion, Art & De­sign” in the city, lead­ing to the city’s sta­tus as World De­sign Cap­i­tal 2014.

PIC­TURE: JEF­FREY ABRAHAMS

DRESSED FOR SUC­CESS: Fash­ion Week can be the per­fect model to re­vive the tex­tile in­dus­try.

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