Fashion Industry, Once No. 1 in Cape Town, Seeks Comeback

Fashion Industry, Once No. 1 in Cape Town, Seeks Comeback

Until the 1990s, clothing and textiles were the biggest employers in the Western Cape, with thousands of people employed in factories.

Now tourism claims the No. 1 spot, but South Africa’s once-thriving fashion industry hopes to make a comeback as it prepares for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Aug. 7-10 in Cape Town, according to a report in Independent Online.

Fashion Week and similar events are vital for the provincial fashion and textiles industry, decimated in recent years, said attorney and Chamber of Commerce Chairman Michael Bagraim. Locally produced clothes and textiles have declined to about a third of their volume since the 1980s and 90s.

“It’s important to focus on local at this time in order to re-establish the former glory of the industry,” Bagraim said.

Fashion Week, he said, could act as a catalyst for the revival of the industry, once the backbone of Cape Town’s economy.

Attracting more designers to the city could mean more factories feeding the industry and eventually offering South Africans opportunities to buy local clothing at affordable costs, he said.

“We’ve been bleeding for the last 25 years, shedding people by retrenching, dismissing and closing down,” Bagraim said.

Fashion Week organizer African Fashion International said it worked hard to create “leading, world-class platforms (including Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Joburg, Cape Town and Africa) aimed at driving the growth of the industry and the support of talented designers.

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The chamber put out a call for South Africans to buy local goods, not just in terms of fashion, but also generally. And Bagraim said the response had so far been positive.

“There is a strong feeling of patriotism that is starting to creep into our psyche.”

But there were still complaints that the stock of certain stores is mostly imported. With Eastern imports being cheap and arriving in bulk, people could not always afford to buy local – “and that’s where it falls apart at the seams,” he said.

Up to 30 designers will show their Spring/Summer 2013/14 collections at this year’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Cape Town. The theme is celebrating the strength of fashion, art and design in the city.