Feebearing - Cape Town - 140415 - Minister of Economic Development, Ebrahim Patel, launched the construction of a R25m clothing design centre in Epping Industria 2 which is connected to a industrial clothing plant owned by SACTWU. Pictured: Moggamat Brenner who works as a final presser in the clothing plant. REPORTER: WARREN FORTUNE. PICTURE: WILLEM LAW.

Cape Town - with the sharp decline in Cape Town’s clothing industry over the past two decades, it is hoped a new focus on clothing design will rejuvenate the city’s largest manufacturing industry.

Economic Development minister Ebrahim Patel visited the Trade Core Investments Apparel clothing factory in Epping yesterday at the beginng of construction of their R25 million clothing design centre, the first of its kind in Africa.

The centre aims to spot innovations in fashion and make South African clothing more competitive by increasing production and creating another 600 jobs. Clothing that will be created for both sexes includes dresses, shirts, pants and bathing suits tailored for South Africans.

Patel said he hoped the centre would add a different brand to the offerings of major retailers.

“This design centre takes the idea South Africans want to look good. It will find out what items South Africans want to wear and then make them.

We’ve asked ourselves how this country can become competitive in this industry and we view this project as a source. It will look to create new designs so there will be a focus on the ability to spot what young and old people are wearing.”

Trade Core Investments Apparel is the largest clothing manufacturer in the country and supplies major retailers such as Woolworths, Truworths and Edcon.

The company was previously known as Seardel Apparel, but with financial losses over the past few years it avoided closure thanks to the intervention of the Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers Union (Sactwu) which took over the company, saving 2 000 jobs.

Trade Core Investments Apparel took over the company at the beginning of this month.

Sactwu general secretary Andre Kriel said they could not stand back and let the company go bust, sounding a death knell to the industry in the Western Cape.

The completion of the design centre would allow clothing manufacturing here to be on par with modern advances in rest of the world.

“All this was about accountability for us. The company has been going through financial difficulties since 2008 and we could not allow all those workers to lose their jobs. We used some of our union’s financial reserves to keep it running.

“The idea of the design centre is also something we wanted to do to push production, which will in turn increase employment. It will be very modern when done, and there will be no other factory in the country like it.”

The project was also part the national government’s R5 billion budget to help improve the manufacturing sector.

The design centre will open in August.

Cape Argus