JOHANNESBURG – September is Heritage Month and Proudly South African will be hosting a number of events that mark and celebrate our heritage through fashion, music, food and drink.
But what does heritage mean in the context of the buy local movement? At our 2017 Buy Local Summit and Expo we convened a panel to discuss relateable content for local audiences.
Nestlé had introduced morogo flavoured two-minute noodles – much more familiar for local consumers than the pizza flavour.
We compared local interior design items, crafted from local materials, versus imported home decor that seems out of place in Africa.
We spoke about Keeping up with the Kardashians versus Being Bonang, Brooke Logan versus Gracious Mabuza. Which of these resonate with South African audiences and which ones represent a lifestyle beyond our comprehension?
We extended the conversation last year in a special forum for the creative arts – mainly TV, film and radio, and we are happy to see the growth of local productions on our TV screens, with story lines which have an authentic South African narrative and voice. But at the same time, some of our home-grown consumer brands are being squeezed out by cheap imported equivalents.
As if that wasn't damaging enough to the economy, there are some local companies who are taking their manufacturing overseas, cutting out local factories that could do the same work, which would result in providing much needed jobs here in South Africa.
We have written about the example of the footwear industry before, but it is a good illustration of how a handful of local manufacturers who have a heritage here and have been in business for generations are barely holding on in the face of cheap, imported shoes.
As a nation, we buy in excess of 200 million pairs of shoes per year, but we produce only around 70 million of those ourselves.
Retailers will cite a lack of manufacturing skills, yet the fact is we once had the skills but they were lost as we bought more and more imported footwear. It’s time we re-established the heritage that once existed in this sector in order for it to find its feet again (pun intended!)
Other local brands are working to preserve our heritage, and these include member companies Maxhosa by Laduma and Chepa Streetwear. We all know the beautiful Xhosa-inspired designs of Laduma Ngxokolo, whose principal medium is wool – sourced from the Eastern Cape.
Although the cost of manufacturing the same items overseas or using imported raw materials would reduce costs considerably, Laduma stands by the local content and quality which are his trademarks. He has captured his market, proving that there is room for luxury, local items with a certain price tag. He showcased his range at the New York Fashion Week last week, which is a mark of his standing in the fashion world.
Chepa Streetwear, also a member of the campaign, speaks to kasi style, creating contemporary clothing using local fabrics.
Chepa is available on our online shopping platform, so be sure to check them out on www.rsamade.co.za
Lasher Tools, with a heritage in the manufacturing of handmade garden and agricultural tools recently appealed the tariffs on cheaper imported equivalents of a much poorer quality – and won. They are preserving their 90-year record of not one single retrenchment and so their victory is important and should be celebrated.
So, think about who we are, where we come from and where we want to be in the future when you are shopping.
There are many local brands that are already part of our heritage, and many more can become part of the fabric of our society if only we support them.
Don’t let the Maxhosa’s and Chepa’s become like a flash in the pan, that we support for a while then switch allegiance when it suits. Help them, and many other local brands like Lasher Tools, become firmly entrenched in our country, growing and providing jobs for our people.
In the spirit of celebrating our heritage and everything local, I have chosen a song that reflects this and what better track than Sharon Dee’s Local is Lekker.
Eustace Mashimbye is the chief executive of Proudly SA. The views expressed here are his own.