(Published - 7 August 2019)
THE University of the Western Cape (UWC) prides itself on being a pioneer in supporting the local textile industry. Proof of this is a new partnership – the Awear SA campaign – with Wear South African (Wear SA) and the South African Clothing and Textiles Workers Union (SACTWU).
This comes after President Cyril Ramaphosa urged South Africans to wear locally made clothing.
“We will stimulate local demand and grow South African manufacturing by making sure the ‘Buy Local’ campaign is everywhere and ever-present. We call on all South Africans to deliberately and consistently buy locally made goods.
“The suit, the shirt and the tie I am wearing today were locally made by South African textile workers at the House of Monatic, here in Salt River, Cape Town. Let us all buy locally-made goods to drive up demand in our economy,” Ramaphosa said during his State of the Nation Address.
More than 100 students and 15 mentors started the nine-week campaign, designed to equip students with the tools and insights into the textile industry with a weekend boot camp on August 2 and 3 which will see the program culminate in a fashion show on October 5.
“Post this weekend’s boot camp the students will work in teams where they will be taught skills and learn about employability. They will be encouraged to believe that they can make a meaningful contribution to society,” said Charleen Duncan, Director: UWC Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the weekend boot camp.
She also spoke glowingly about the setting up of a store, in the form of a fashion incubator, which will sell local only garments at the UWC Community Health Science faculty in the Bellville CBD.
“This is a first for UWC. It will consist of the entire value chain of the fashion and buy local sector. About 22 students will be exposed to working in this fashion incubator, learn about the industry and earn money while doing so,” explained Duncan.
So why is it important to wear local? “You are investing in your country when you buy local,” said Cheslyn Ross, a 2nd year BCom student. “You are also making a positive impact on the economy by doing so especially when you look at the state of the South African economy - GDP is down and the unemployment rate is high. The more people buy local the more people the industry can employ which will have a positive knock-on effect on the economy.”
Siyavuma Gwanya is one of the 15 mentors on the campaign. “The role of the mentor is to be a support and anchor for the new students who are about to embark on this journey. It’s like being a tour guide - a tour guide is never someone who doesn’t know what a specific tour looks like – hence I see myself as a tour guide but also as a mentor and support for the students on this wonderful journey. This program has taught me how to nurture a brand. It has taught me how to promote and market a specific brand. It has taught me leadership as well as entrepreneurship but has also taught me that something outside the field that I study, can open new doors for my future,” the 2nd year law student said.
When Nobuhle Hadebe, a 2nd year nursing student, was asked why she came to the boot camp, she said it was he love for fashion. “I love fashion and styling. Basically, I want to test myself in a runway environment because I haven’t done that before and I thought that I could gain experience here but this morning has been a total eye-opener for me thus far,” said Hadebe.
Karen Burt, the charismatic facilitator of the boot camp, had students laughing, crying and mystified as she took them on an emotional rollercoaster on the first morning of the boot camp which had very little to do with fashion, runways or clothing. Instead, she taught them that time waits for no one. She had many deep conversations about life principles, shared her own life stories and helped students open up about their personal life journey.
“If we had told the students that you are going to come to this program that is going to teach you about life and you as a person, they would not have come. These students think that they all want to be part of a fashion show but the real thing is that we teach them about life and principles too. It’s been awesome to see how vulnerable some of them were this morning and how okay they were with being vulnerable. I love the UWC students and the fact that they are so willing to participate. The Awear SA Runway Movement is, in essence, using the platform of a fashion show to instil the skills of life into our students. So it’s all the things that young people aren’t always taught at home, school or universities but are the critical things that we need to succeed in life,” Burt concluded.