Durban - An influx of cheap Chinese clothing imports, combined with global fashion retailers setting up shop in local malls, has spurred South African designers to work harder to earn their piece of the pie.
And to this end, the Wear South African campaign, an initiative of the Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers Union (Sactwu), is on a mission to promote local fashion and secure jobs.
The campaign is continuing to spread its message about the importance of supporting a local fashion design and the manufacturing industry.
Wear South African Durban Fashion Gala Dinner and Runway was held at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Conference Center on Friday, where Minister of Trade and Industry Ebrahim Patel encouraged those in attendance to support and buy local fashion.
“Only use your rand where there’s a local label,” he said.
The event offered a platform for local designers to show off their talents. Sactwu’s initiative means local fashion designers can reach new clients and ultimately secure jobs.
Reign, one of the Durban-based design labels showcased their work. The hybrid fashion label established by Durban University of Technology Fashion and Textile graduates, Sipho Mbuto and Ben Nozo, said they had looked at different business models in their bid to grow their brand.
Reign began in 2015 in Durban and has started exporting goods to Johannesburg’s Melville suburb and they have plans to expand to other parts of the country.
The young designers Mbuto and Nozo, both from the South Coast, said they preferred local fabrics and manufacturers. Mbuto and Nozo were excited to show at the Gala Dinner and Runway extravaganza. “This is an amazing platform. It will open a market for us and we will meet people who have not heard of us.”
Their label produces menswear collections positioned as unisex. “Our brand’s identity is centred around the strength of individuality and not on sexual orientation, societal order or other normative pressures,” they said.
Their combination of functional detail and monochromatic colour form Reign’s design signature which is drawn from the playful imaginative tales of craftsmanship that also explores freedom of self-expression.
They both have showcased on various fashion runways and the past year has presented them with yet another opportunity to showcase a collection at SA Fashion Week Autumn/Winter 2019.
“The vision of Reign is to inspire a generation of customers to dress in garments that have structural forms that are challenged and experimental in shape and contemporary utility,” said Mbuto.
He added when you build a brand you can instill higher skills locally.
“South Africa is so small, we should focus on the niche and not the mass,” added Nozo.
Patel also outlined his departments R40 billion plans over the next five years to grow and boost the local economy. He said he will focus on five key areas - industrial modernisation, opening up new markets, deepening investments, promoting economic inclusion by amplify the programme around Black Industrialists and spatial development.
“This new vision for the industry will be a vision that will develop through what we call a master plan, it will be very practical and identify a few areas that we will fix, not everything, not thousands of issues - just a few things and when we get that right we will make a change and it will be based on working with the industry,” he said.
He went on to speak about the possibility of a global "trade war".
“The rise of China was like a shock to the world and for a number of years many industries and countries adjusted. We are now in the middle of what looks like a relationship breakdown of two of the major players and the real possibility of a trade war,” Patel said.
The minister also announced that South Africa has signed the African Continental Free Trade Area. An agreement signed by 54 countries and ratified by 27, last Sunday in Beijing, where heads of state “essentially pressed the button to say we now proceed on the implementation phase of the African Continental Free Trade Area.”
This agreement is said to bring tariffs down between countries on the continent and create a market for 1.2 billion people, with an African GDP of R50 trillion.
“Many of the young are urbanising, many are increasingly getting into a high-spending middle-class lifestyle and with that comes an enormous gross domestic product,” Patel said.
He emphasised that Africa will have the potential to be one of the “big players”.
“The dream of African unity is an opportunity for us to reshape our destinies. We are in a New Dawn with optimism, a new energy and the return of investor confidence,” Patel said.
He added that last year South Africa had a significant inflow of foreign direct investments of R71 billion, more than any of the preceding five years. He also mentioned that the country has become the second largest export of citrus fruit.