Cape Town – South African designers preparing for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Cape Town, which starts in less than two weeks’ time, have the dual responsibility of not only putting on a beautiful show, but also helping rebuild what was once a thriving industry.
That’s according to Chamber of Commerce human resource portfolio chairman Michael Bagraim, who said Fashion Week and similar events were vital against the backdrop of a provincial fashion and textiles industry that has been “decimated” in recent years.
“It’s important to focus on local at this time, in order to re-establish the former glory of the industry,” he said.
Also a long-time labour lawyer, Bagraim said that, based on his own client base, the industry in terms of locally-producing retailers and factories had declined to about a third of what it was in the 1980s and 1990s.
Events such as Fashion Week, he predicted, could act as something of a catalyst to the revival of the industry, which was once the backbone of Cape Town’s economy.
Now the tourism industry has taken that number one spot, but Bagraim said Cape Town remained the fashion capital of the Western Cape, South Africa and potentially even Africa.
Attracting more designers to the city could, in the longer term, mean more factories, which would feed into the industry, eventually offering South Africans opportunities to buy local clothing at affordable costs, he added.
Until the 1990s, clothing and textiles was the biggest employer in the Western Cape, with thousands of people employed in factories in Woodstock, Salt River and Observatory.
“We’ve been bleeding for the last 25 years, shedding people, by retrenching, dismissing and closing down,” Bagraim said . . .
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