The TCI Apparel Design Centre, which partners with Woolworths, the South African Clothing and Textile Workers Union (Sactwu), the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Independent Development Corporation (IDC), opened its new green factory in Epping, Bonteheuwel, on Friday with much fanfare.
The opening was marked with a tree-planting ceremony by TCI chief executive Herman Pillay and a group of children whose parents work at the factory.
“International trends are being set, designed and manufactured right here in Epping,” said Pillay.
The facility not only boasts state-of-the-art equipment, colourful walls and a landscaped garden, but also has its own vegetable garden. Produce from the garden is used to prepare food for staff. Pillay says it’s all part of their drive to promote sustainable fashion and job creation.
TCI employs 3500 people and supplies Woolworths with 4.5million garments per year. Other partners and clients include the Edcon Group, Truworths and Foschini. All garments produced by TCI are organic.
The factory is not only the first of its kind in South Africa, but also in Africa, and this makes the Western Cape a leader in sustainable fashion on the continent. According to Pillay, TCI saved more than 2200 jobs in the sector and added a further 1350 new jobs in a sector that was largely viewed as a “sunset industry”.
The clothing and textile industry suffered major job losses a few years ago but seems to be on an even keel now.
The new TCI green design factory uses solar energy to power hundreds of sewing machines and even harnesses atmospheric water through an atmospheric water generator. The device extracts water from humid ambient air, which is then condensed by cooling the air below its dew point, exposing the air to desiccants, or pressurising the air. The technology limits the factory’s reliance on municipal water and is in line with the city’s water-saving strategy.
“This is a perfect illustration of how climate change can be merged with business,” said Pillay, who added that the economy was at an all-time low and businesses needed to “adapt or die, break through or be broken through”.
Pillay added that fashion trends change constantly and the industry cannot stay abreast and compete with international brands at the same time.
“The idea is that we set the trends here and use our crystal ball to predict fashion trends that can compete on the global catwalk,” said Pillay.
TCI enjoys strong support from Sactwu and the union has partnered with the company to create the design centre.
Woolworths chief executive Zyda Rylands said facilities such as these are in line with their vision of an import replacement strategy.
Pillay said workers are also treated to Pilates, aerobics and yoga exercises three times per week.
As for the fashions, this reporter had a sneak preview of the Spring/Summer collection for 2017/2018 and the word on the ramp is puff is in ladies so puff away.