With water shortages and water availability being urgent issues in Cape Town, African Fashion International, organisers of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Cape Town 2017, resolved to contribute fresh drinking water to two needy community residential organisations. Following a successful finale to MBFWCT17, on Saturday 8 April, African Fashion International donated its surplus stock of more than 1 000 bottles of drinking water in 500ml bottles to Solomon’s Haven in Mitchell’s Plain, and the Douglas Murray Home in Retreat.
This donation consisted of surplus drinking water sponsored for Fashion Week by Generosity Water. African Fashion International chose to partner with Generosity Water because they were impressed by their proactive social responsibility. For every bottle purchased, they supply water to two people in needy communities for one month.
“South Africa is a water-poor country and Cape Town is one of the centres where this has become a crisis,” says Dr Precious Moloi-Motsepe, CEO and Founder of African Fashion International. “We knew that we could not let any amount of this vital commodity be wasted and wanted to make sure that it would benefit community organisations who badly need support.”
Solomon’s Haven is a registered NPO in Mitchell’s Plain, housing 25 children from abusive homes. It was founded in 1990 by a local wife and mother, Maria Solomons, and she runs it together with her husband, Alec, to whom she has been married for more than quarter of a century. Maria empathises closely with her children as she was herself an abused child and also did not succeed in becoming literate until adulthood. She received the Cape Times Woman of Worth Award in 2004 for her work.
“This wonderful donation has a double impact for us,” says Mrs Solomons. “We can no longer allow our children to drink water from the tap so we have to boil water before they can consume it. Now we have good fresh water to offer them for a while, plus we shall also save money on the electricity used in boiling the tap water.”
The Douglas Murray Home in Retreat cares for about 70 elderly and frail residents, and operates with more than 50 professionally trained staff. It is recognised by the Department of Social Development and has been in existence for more than 40 years, but it currently finds fundraising to sustain its programmes more challenging than ever.
“We feel that we have endured the pain of being thirsty in the desert,” says Keith Snyman, chairperson of the Douglas Murray Home Residents’ Association. “It has underlined the importance of freshwater for us and we truly value this donation.”
African Fashion International’s move is in keeping with the more caring and socially aware attitude that has become prevalent in the fashion industry in recent years, believes Dr Moloi-Motsepe.
“Fashion has often been slated as promoting a throwaway consumer culture but, in fact, designers are usually deeply aware of and share the concerns of their clients over excessive waste, climate change and the future of our planet generally,” she says.
“Increasingly, designers’ collections reference these concerns,” she points out. For example, The Joinery showed clothing and accessories from recycled materials at MBFWCT17. Designers also tend to use materials that are eco-friendly, such as bamboo fibres and ecologically safer dyes, as well as often promoting social sustainability through their sourcing and other production practices. .
“We should not forget that fashion provides employment for thousands of creatives in the design, events, clothing manufacturing, and allied industries, thus contributing significantly to the economy,” she says. “Water and environmental conservation, is part of my family foundation’s broader effort and obligation towards the development and upliftment of the people of South Africa, and I am happy to have brought this dimension into the fashion industry.”