18 of 2022`

  Newsletter No 18/13 May 2022                                 


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Is globalisation as we know it on the way out?

By Chris Gilmour

Picture: 123RF/BANNO SUKE

The winning nations in future will be those that invest in 3D printing and related manufacturing technologies

One can apply the misquote attributed to Mark Twain that “reports of my death are greatly exaggerated” to the current spate of articles suggesting that globalisation as we have come to know it is in its death throes.

Globalisation has certainly been dealt a number of mortal blows in recent times, from Donald Trump’s trade wars and the coronavirus pandemic to new technological developments and now the Russia-Ukraine war. But the world is still a highly interconnected place and much of that will remain intact.

However, at the margin and perhaps even much further than that, globalisation is undoubtedly taking severe strain. In the mid-1990s, when I was an analyst with a large US-owned investment bank in Johannesburg, some bright spark from London came up with a great idea to save money and improve productivity when it came to producing research reports.

Notwithstanding the fact that at the time we already produced and distributed all our hard copy research in house with our own physical printing capability, this chap suggested outsourcing the whole lot to an outfit in Singapore. Even allowing for airfreighting it back to Johannesburg, his figures demonstrated quite clearly that it would be quicker, cheaper and more reliable to go the Singapore route.

Whether they eventually went that route is unknown, as I left the organisation shortly afterwards but it serves to demonstrate the potency and seductiveness of outsourcing certain functions to low-cost environments in Southeast Asia at that time. But technology has moved on since then and hard copy is no longer favoured by investors.

And even where it is still mission-critical, such as in clothing and footwear manufacture, 3D printing is making the process of apparel and footwear manufacture in the Far East Asia and Africa redundant.

In the not-too-distant future, consumers will be able to go into a store, specify what fabric, colour and style of garment is required and then watch the whole process take place on premise. Bespoke fashion at a cheap price. Alternatively, they will be able to order the garment online, specifying everything that is required and then just click and collect or have it delivered.

Manufacturing sports footwear by means of 3D printing has been happening for at least the past decade and the process is gathering momentum. Often referred to as “additive manufacturing”, this approach puts down successive layers in a sports shoe that don’t require any manual intervention in the form of cutting and trimming, for example.

It is easy to see why this process largely does away with the human touch altogether. And for those wishing to go the sustainable route, recycled material can be used along the way. The winning nations in future will not necessarily be those that can provide cheap labour but rather those that are prepared to invest the large sums of money required in 3D printing and related technologies.

So as China produces less internally as its workforce ages and is not replaced, thanks to exceptionally poor demographics, it will progressively be unable to maintain its complex network of global supply chains for its goods. Coupled with that in the short term is a slavish adherence to a so-called zero-Covid approach to the pandemic, which has resulted in severe lockdowns all over China in response to the Omicron variant.

Those countries wishing to insulate themselves from the worst effects of disrupted Chinese supply chains would do well to consider insourcing many more products using 3D printing technologies to overcome the loss in productivity that might otherwise result from such insourcing using human labour in their own countries.

So globalisation will remain, though in a different form from the way we understand it today. Low-cost industrial production in Far East Asia and Africa will be progressively put under extreme pressure from advances in technology. However, money and investment will tend to flow to those countries that embrace manufacturing technology, rather than just supplying cheap labour.  BL

Taiwan activist tells of being jailed in China

By Ben Blanchard

Chinese flags. Picture: REUTERS

Taipei — A Taiwanese activist jailed in China said on Tuesday that he was subjected to forced labour and endured stale food while serving a five-year sentence, but that he was not tortured.

Li Ming-che, a community college lecturer and activist at a human rights nongovernmental organisation in Taiwan, disappeared while visiting China in 2017.

Later that year, a Chinese court found him guilty of subversion. He was released from jail and returned to Taiwan last month.

Speaking to reporters at Taiwan’s parliament, Li said he was forced to make clothing including shoes and gloves during his time in jail, working 11-12 hours a day with few days off, and he was not allowed to speak to most other prisoners.

“It was totally a sweat shop,” he said.

While the food was stale, Li said he was neither tortured nor “whipped”, but that he had considered himself to have been “kidnapped” by the Chinese government.

China’s Taiwan affairs office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Li admitted during his trial to having criticised China’s ruling Communist Party and to having shared articles and arguments promoting Taiwan’s multiparty democracy.

Li said he was only trying to help Chinese political prisoners and their families to ensure they were not left destitute, and that he was not allowed to defend himself during his trial, adding he thought the charges against him were “laughable”.

Asked if he had anything he wanted to say to China’s government now he was back in Taiwan and free, Li answered: “Taiwan and China are each one country on either side” of the Taiwan Strait. “It’s that simple.”

Beijing maintains that Taiwan is part of China and has never renounced the use of force to bring it under its control, while democratic Taiwan has shown no interest in being governed by the Communist Party rulers in Beijing.

Li stood trial alongside Chinese national Peng Yuhua, who confessed to creating instant messaging groups and founding an organisation that sought to promote political change in China.   Reuters

SA Fashion Week sashays back to town

By Declan Gibbon

Ezokhetho at SA Fashion Week.

SAFW saw promising new talent, gender-bending shapes and innovative layering.

A staple of the fashion calendar, SA Fashion Week (SAFW) is back to its pre-pandemic days. From big-name sponsors, to opening parties, the glitz and glam of local fashion is finally back in all its glory. The three-day affair, replete with Cruz Vodka cocktails, the who’s-who of the fashion and influencer industries, and even a visit by the Johannesburg mayor, Dr Mpho Phalatse.

This year, to expand the platform’s scope and extend its growth, SAFW teamed up with the SA Leather Export Council and continued with support from cellphone manufacturers Oppo.

“It is this [kind of] investment that has enabled us to unearth, nurture, support, market and sell the designer collections, and which allows a brilliant young designer to become a job-creating contributor to the country’s GDP,” says Lucilla Booyzen, director of SAFW.

These were the top 10 collections of Spring/Summer 2022.

1. Munkus

The New Talent Search competition was the first show of SAFW, showcasing youthful, energetic and extravagant print collections of Sixx6, Mekay Designs, Czene.24, Ipikoko and Munkus. Thando Munku Ntuli’s Munkus claimed the well-deserved victory with her gorgeous layering, bold prints and considered material. Munkus’s collection very clearly stood out with its rich narrative, great tailoring and nuanced juxtapositions of print.

2. Fikile Zamagcino Sokhulu

Fikile Zamagcino Sokhulu focused on ruffles and tuffles in an ageless menage of textures and patterns. Sokhulu uses feminine and organic aesthetics to deliver a contemporary offering that is as classic as it is timeless.

3. Sipho Mbuto

Sipho Mbuto’s line challenged structural forms, using experiment pattern shapes in a contemporary offering that was as sensitive as it was regal. Sipho Mbuto has been a finalist, and winner, of multiple menswear awards over the years. In 2021, he worked with the UKZN as a costume designer for drama and cultural studies.

4. Bam Collective

Jacques Bam’s BAM Collective specialises in taking alternative and over-the-top approaches to fashion. Capitalising on their idea of an SA utopia, the brand pushes boundaries through colour, joy and excitement.

5. Ntando XV

Ntando XV by Ntando Ngwenya offers artisanal clothing, with cutting-edge and unconventional design, shapes and cuts. Conservative and post-modern techniques are merged in an intricate and contemporary manner, creating a new genre of clothing.

6. Loxion Kulca

One of the icons of the post-Apartheid streetwear scene, Loxion Kulca dived right back into its roots of Pantsula culture with a show-stopping performance opening its show. The proudly SA brand has remained true to its origins, yet innovated materials and silhouettes for a contemporary culture; a culture where streetwear has merged with high-fashion and workwear.

7. Ephymol

Bold, masculine and glamorous menswear has become the signature of Ephraim Molingoane’s Ephymol. Showcasing at SAFW since 2002, the brand has retained its relevancy and showcased a collection perfect for the Met Gala 2022 theme.

8. Amanda-Laird Cherry

A staple of the SA fashion scene, Amanda-Laird Cherry’s focus on aesthetically conscious design delivered a collection of gorgeous hues, nuanced layering and wide-appeal. In 2019, she took home the Fashion Designer of the Year award at the World Fashion Awards in London and clearly she did not let the recognition get to her head, as she continues to elevate and innovate wardrobe staples.

9. Franc Elis

Functionality is balanced with design in Franc Elis. Juxtaposing functional essentials with sophistication makes the brand modern and considered. Influenced by military wear, well-tailored garments are strategic yet balanced by clean-cut aesthetics.

10. Ezokhetho

After winning Emerging Talent of the Year at the inaugural Fashion Industry Awards SA, Ezokheto continues to showcase symbol-heavy statement style. Started by Mpumelelo Dhlamini in 2019, Ezokheto celebrates the past that has led us to the present. The brand reflects on, and celebrates, the intricacies of contemporary spaces while referencing the struggle to get here.  

Most models in a fashion show

The most models in a fashion show is 421, and was achieved at an event organised by Olga Prokhorova (OLGA IF) and Imaginative Fashion (both Spain) in Madrid, Spain, on 8 February 2020.

On this day, Olga and her agency Imaginative Fashion also successfully achieved a Guinness World Records record title for the Most nationalities in a fashion show.

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