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Fashion events boost textiles industry in South Africa

South African Fashion Week showcasing the country’s top design talent has provided a boost to the flagging textiles industry. Homegrown designs are promoting locally sourced fabrics, achieving global recognition and creating jobs.

South Africa’s struggling textile industry has had new life breathed into it by a burgeoning locally produced fashion market in Africa’s largest economy.

This year’s 16th South Africa Fashion Week in Johannesburg, was bigger and busier than any before, highlighting contributions from across the production line from local designers to tailors and suppliers of lace, dyes, buttons and zips.

Lucilla Booyzen, Director of South African Fashion Week, said, "For a small country like South Africa, it really is up and coming and 16 years ago we did not have any of this, so South Africa Fashion Week contributed hugely to the development of the creative fashion design in South Africa, and that is what we stand for, that is what we are here for. We do not just form a platform, we actually are the support system. We play the role of a counsel in the country."

Events like fashion week also carry the hopes of thousands of jobless textile workers living in poverty.

Twenty four-year-old Faith Mathye is a seamstress at Mzansi Designer’s Emporium, a collective of black South African designers looking to empower the fashion skilled.

Faith Mathye, seamstress, said, "I am able to help my mother and my family. I do not have a child yet so I am able to support my family and people at home."

One of the labels working with co-operatives of seamstresses and pattern makers to produce a collection of African inspired designs is Mantsho.

The label’s designer, Palesa Mokubung says South Africa’s design potential is huge but there is a need to create opportunities for every level of the local market.

Palesa Mokubung, fashion designer, said, "There is a gap in the market right now and it’s so big and I think that all South Africans designers can have a piece of the market. I am just trying to do that and I think I have enough experience to flex my creative muscles and I am working on watering that down and making it more accessible."

However, industry insiders also say with such opportunities South Africa will have to put the infrastructure in place to avoid the local gains being edged out by more textile imports.

South Africa has lost ground in several manufacturing sectors because of the high cost and low productivity of its workforce. The average South African factory worker makes about six times more than a Chinese factory worker and is less efficient, according to government data.

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