31 of 2023

Newsletter No 31/11 August 2023                              


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Clothing and textile industry under attack, says union, as over 120,000 jobs lost since 2005

Statistics South Africa has recently published a report that shows over 120,000 clothing and textile manufacturing workers lost their jobs since 2005.

Since the advent of democracy in South Africa, the clothing and textile manufacturing industry has been severely impacted by laissez-faire or free trade policies which allow for the importation of goods.

A manufacturing report published by Statistics South Africa last month shows that between 2005 and 2021, just over 121,000 jobs in the textile and clothing industry were lost.

The figure by StatsSA attached below shows that the clothing and textile industry’s curve is pitched at the steepest angle, after losing more than two-thirds of its workforce in the 16 year period.

The petroleum and chemical industry was the only sector to have increased in employment numbers.

But the clothing and textile industry statistics provided by StatsSA may not be entirely accurate, because the footwear and leather industry are often not taken into account, according to Michael Shabalala from The Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union (Sactwu).

But job losses since 2005 surpass 120,000 employees, largely because of local companies choosing to outsource their manufacturing needs to overseas companies and also the hiring of undocumented foreign nationals, Shabalala explained.

Shabalala said the clothing and textile industry has been under attack ever since South Africa’s borders were opened after apartheid, which allowed companies to import cheaper quality goods from outside South Africa, and avoid paying the minimum wages to locals.

The Minister of Trade and Industry, Ebrahim Patel did well to help push for the promulgation of the local procurement accord, which helped the country tighten its grip on imports by imposing a tax on them, the Sactwu National organising secretary said.

But since then, private companies have decided to continue with the hiring of foreign nationals to avoid abiding by labour laws and bargaining council rules in terms of wages and working conditions.

Shabalala said this is where government departments need to step in and enforce, but have failed to do so.

“We are a trade union. We cannot overstep our authority. There are departments within our government who need to step up and make sure the rules are being enforced.

“The problem is that these companies have started to shift from the usual CC and Pty (LTD)’s into what is known as ‘worker conveyances’. For instance, if we go to a private company and ask why they employ foreign nationals only, they say they do not own the company and, therefore, are not guided by labour laws. They say they ‘are conveyancers of the workers’ needs’,” Shabalala said.

“There are lots of bogus companies that operate like this in Newcastle, KZN, Qwa Qwa, in the Free State, as well as Clairwood and Durban Central,” he said.

Shabalala said the union will continue to weed out these companies that seek to go against legislation that is meant to protect the dignity and rights of South African workers.

Sactwu is expected to visit more companies within the Durban metropolitan area which it believes are in contravention of the country’s labour laws.     IOL

Surf’s up for Instinct, Shaun Tomson’s former iconic label

By Shirley le Guern

Simon de Robillard. Picture: Supplied

The wave-riding legend teams up with locals to resurrect the once famous sportswear brand

After 30 years one of South Africa’s best-known surfwear brands, Instinct, has resurfaced in its hometown, via a partnership between founder and local surf legend Shaun Tomson and Durban-based manufacturer Oh Two Clothing.

“Instinct is very much about roots and soul. We have a rich heritage and want to make sure that people are aware of our story,” says head of brand Simon de Robillard.

The idea is to balance the present with nostalgia, recalling the days when Durban was known as “surf city” and home to the legendary Gunston 500 international surfing tournament.

Instinct’s story dates back to 1972. Though only 15 years old, Thomson was already being noticed; a local newspaper at the time published an article about his surfing at his favourite local break at Durban’s Dairy Beach.

De Robillard says: “Shaun mastered the art of tube riding. He always said that the essence of surfing is riding the tube, and that the very best tubes happen when you are operating on instinct. Shaun’s father, who understood the power of branding, created a logo from this. That is how the Instinct brand was born.”

Tomson partnered with a local family to launch the Instinct surfwear brand in 1979. By the early 1980s, soon after Tomson became world champion, Instinct’s headquarters moved to the US and it quickly became the third-biggest core surf lifestyle brand, behind Quiksilver and Gotcha, which was created by Thomson’s cousin Michael.

The Instinct brand was characterised by surf-bleached fabrics, bold print graphics and innovative styles such as pull-on surf pants and a reversible jacket. Since news of the return of the brand spread, De Robillard says he has been inundated with messages asking if these signature items would again be available.

South African surfing entrepreneurs, among them Tomson, Michael and, more recently, Paul Naude, who started the popular Vissla brand, all but created an entirely new category in the clothing industry.

Surfwear’s popularity soon drew the attention of big corporates, and by the 1990s mass production had diluted these brands. At roughly the same time, South Africa’s textile industry imploded in the wake of a flood of cheap Chinese imports.

When Tomson retired from professional surfing in 1990, he sold his share of Instinct to his partners, who in turn sold it to TFG.

“We are not privy to the details of why the brand disappeared from the market. But though it has been dormant for about 30 years, people are stoked to see this truly iconic South African clothing brand come back,” says Tomson.

Tomson and his wife, Carla, a designer, reacquired the licence for Instinct for all countries other than South Africa in the early 2000s.

Tomson then approached TFG regarding the status of the South African licence, only to find that it was about to expire. TFG was prepared to return the brand to Tomson if he contributed a percentage of all product sales to the Cape Town-based 9Miles Project, an NGO that uses surfing to empower young people from informal settlements. Tomson was already working with the organisation, so it was a natural fit.

In February 2022, Tomson approached Oh Two Clothing, which produces apparel for a number of local chain stores and brands.

De Robillard says there was a natural alignment with the 25-year-old company, which had been started by his two older brothers, Yohan and Stephan. The Tomsons gave Oh Two Clothing full creative and distribution licence for Instinct in Southern Africa.

Most of 2022 was spent repositioning the brand, designing the launch range and beginning to manufacture it. Instinct was officially launched online in March this year, and Oh Two Clothing is identifying independent surf retail partners that will help re-establish it in the local market.

“We have adopted the term ‘home-grown, home-sewn’. It refers to sourcing our cotton from Africa and knitting it at local fabric mills. Our clothing will be made in South Africa by South African hands,” De Robillard says.

Small-batch production will create an element of exclusivity while enabling the company to manage stock and inventory.

The vision is also to develop products of global quality and embrace new production techniques.

“Sustainability is another big part of our story — from the sourcing of raw materials to the manufacturing process and packaging. Making our product locally means we are reducing our carbon footprint by not relying on imports,” De Robillard says.

“We want to create a brand with a strong sense of purpose and provenance.”   

Off the runway: Thom Browne

By Nokubonga Thusi

The Thom Browne Paris haute couture Autumn/Winter 2023- 2024 show.
Images: Supplied

Fashion became living art as the brand’s collection paid homage to the US couturier’s signature combination of tailoring and conceptual design

At the Thom Browne Paris haute couture Autumn/Winter 2023- 2024 show, fashion became living art as the collection paid homage to the US couturier’s signature combination of tailoring and conceptual design. In a palette devoid of colour, models were sent out on the runway in suits and coats in shades of grey and white with narrow silhouettes, festooned with optical illusions. The whole collection was an artful play on proportion and expert tailoring featuring 3D patchworks of landscapes, sailboats, seascapes, oversized bell-shaped hats, and larger-than-life inflated sleeves.

In a perfect complement to the collection’s monochromatic mood, the beauty look went the artful, surreal route with models in wigs and graphic, colourful makeup reminiscent of Picasso paintings with distorted proportions and lines.   

Children dressed identically to adults until the mid-1800s, when the concept of children’s clothing took off. Children’s clothes were similar for boys and girls until about the age of six. Both wore “dresses” of cotton or wool around the house.


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