The Trade and Industry Department says “a silver lining is beginning to emerge” in the clothing and textiles industry, which was devastated by the loss of 100 000 jobs, mostly in the Western Cape.

It is thanks to “fast fashion” and a sharp rise in wages in China.

Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies says fast fashion’s compelling marketing line asks: “Why wait six months to enjoy the latest styles and colours when you can get what you want in six weeks and less?

“It’s not necessary to wait a full fashion season (as has happened in the past) to show off what trendsetters in London, Milan, New York and Sydney are wearing right now,” said Davies.

“All that is required for South Africans to wear the latest clothes and colours is for big clothing retailers to place orders through local factories.

“The good news is that this is exactly what retailers have been doing – to an ever-increasing degree. In 2013, retailers such as Foschini and Edcon placed about a third of their orders through local and regional factories.

“There has never been any question about the quality of clothing made by South African producers. Cost has always been the crucial factor. South African clothing manufacturers have never been able to compete with manufacturers from the Far East.”

But Davies says fast fashion and the doubling of labour costs in China since 2007, have significantly narrowed the cost gap between South Africa and China.

“As a result, South African clothing factories have become more competitive,” he said.

This new lease of life for the industry has come from the buy-in by the clothing and textiles industry to the Department of Trade and Industry’s clothing and textiles competitiveness programme, which the department’s director-general, Lionel October, said had “stabilised production and employment”.

“After five years of this exercise, we’re proud to say we’ve chalked up some important successes. And this has occurred despite the global economic recession… We originally had an incentive in the clothing industry based on exports. We realised, it was the wrong incentive.

“So we acted decisively. We discontinued that incentive and replaced it with the CTCP, which says: ‘You get an incentive based on your manufacturing value addition in your processing operations, but you can only use it for investments that raise your global competitiveness’,” October said.

Cape Times