(Published - 7 October 2019)
Fashion with a conscience was on show at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) this weekend, where students spoke up against gender-based violence while promoting local designs.
UWC students partnered with the Wear South African campaign to present their AwearSA Fashion Show at the main hall on campus on Saturday night. The aim was to encourage the audience to buy locally produced clothes.
Wear SA is a project of the South African Clothing and Textile Workers Union (Sactwu), which aims to strengthen the local manufacturing industry.
UWC’s Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation spearheaded the fashion show, with all ticket sales going to the Rise against Hunger campaign. The latter provides meals to students, many of whom depend on bursaries to cover their daily needs.
Apart from being a platform for student fashion design talent, the AwearSA show also included local singers, musicians and hip-hop dancers. Musical performances spoke out against gender-based violence, and the slogan ‘What I Wear Does Not Give You the Right To My Body’ appeared on a big screen as models took to the runway.
The fashion show was the culmination of a project involving at least 100 students, from across various university faculties, participating in an intensive weekend boot camp as well as a 6-week programme to learn about aspects of the local textile and design industry.
Charleen Duncan, director of the Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, said they were working with students to build an effective ‘Buy Local’ strategy that “stimulates the clothing and textile industry to the extent that it creates thousands of sustainable new jobs and attracts the patronage of loyal local consumers”.
Explaining the strategy, Duncan said this would require “local suppliers to competitively provide alternatives to importing components at every stage of the value chain”.
“Capital also needs to be unlocked to invest in new production facilities. This includes banks and the government increasing their appetite for risk, and regulators reducing red tape and other barriers to entry in the sector,” said Duncan.
She recalled how president Cyril Ramaphosa made an encouraging move for the local clothing industry when he stood before Parliament’s National Assembly to deliver his State of the Nation Address (SONA) in Cape Town on June 20 this year.
“The president proudly announced that his splendid suit was 100% locally sourced, ready-to-wear and made in a factory a mere four kilometres away,” said Duncan.
“With this simple act, he signalled government’s intent to revive a part of the manufacturing sector that has been devastated by the effects of trade liberalisation and international competition.”
Wayne van der Rheede, spokesperson for Wear SA, said their collaboration with UWC is “unique and a first for our campaign”.
“We seek to urge consumers to buy local and grow our economy and our manufacturing base, and to create sustainable jobs in the clothing pipeline and value chain. We want to contribute meaningfully to addressing the high unemployment in our country,” said Van der Rheede.
Wear SA and UWC’s partnership will also result in the launch of an incubator store at the University’s Faculty of Community and Health Sciences building in the Bellville CBD.
Staffed by 18 students, the store will provide experiential training in all facets of the industry, including garment design, manufacturing, buying, retail and marketing.
Duncan said the incubator store has potential as a pilot for how industries and institutions of higher learning can collaborate to foster economic growth.
“The programme underscores the value of universities, government and business working with the youth to realise the goals of the National Development Plan,” she said.
Sactwu’s general secretary, Andre Kriel, said at the fashion show that the union has been working with government and retailers to promote local clothing brands.
“Going forward from November, we hope to double the number of jobs. Retailers have committed to lift the quota of local products that they would source from local manufacturers,” said Kriel.
He said they were also planning a similar fashion show with the Durban University of Technology in KwaZulu-Natal to encourage students to Wear SA.