34 of 2020


                                                              Newsletter No. 34 / 11 September 2020                            

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The altered eco-system of South African fashion

By Samantha Chrysanthou

For years now, South Africa’s local fashion industry has been steadily trudging along. Many production and economic challenges face both local brands and designers, but the closest to their bottom line are inexpensive imports.

Asia’s stronghold over the local fashion industry remains in place, despite innovation from homegrown brands and campaigns to promote SA-made fashion. Year on year, SA Fashion Week and Mercedes Benz Fashion Week runways have been dressed with the who’s who and who’s next of the local fashion-scape. Although a beautiful display of our talented designers, little of those pieces have trickled down to the average consumer.

Even nudges in the right direction from retailers, such as the Edgars X SAFW Capsule Collections, or The Space and its offering of local garments, have not been enough to sway the larger population. Impactful, yes, but the average Joe and Jane are still not buying local – for now.

Primed for change

E-commerce is on an upward trajectory, including in SA. Revenue in the e-commerce market is projected to reach $4,057m in 2020, with a sizeable part of that pie baked by the fashion industry. The market’s largest segment is fashion with a projected market volume of $1,258m in 2020.

Previous retail channels used by the average South African consumer, were limiting and often lead them back to traditional brick and mortar. However, with the ‘great e-commerce restructure’, the illusory wool was lifted from their eyes. With it, came a progressive shift in their perception of the marketplace.

Credit Statista, 2020

So where does that leave local fashion?

We have seen a number of local brands supporting and collaborating with one another in order to combat Covid, grow their ethical and sustainable practices and change consumer perception.

Consumer behaviour is shifting at a rapid pace. Fast fashion (although still a major player), may just need to watch its back, as consumers become more ‘woke’ to the dark realities of the fashion underworld. Zoom in on the social playgrounds, and you will quickly realise that environmental and socio-economic philosophies rule the yard, producing the unavoidable ‘bubble up’ – so much so that larger brands are lending a pricked ear.

Knowing who made your clothes and understanding the ethical inner workings of the brands you support is swiftly becoming the new black. It is as though an investigative journalism light went off in the buyer’s mind over the lockdown period, and now knowledge, is affirmatively power.
But is the price right?

The lag on the average South African’s finger click is still money. Especially now. But what we are seeing more and more of, is the justification of higher-priced purchases, in relation to their broader value. One of the reasons for this is that online shops often promote an incentive of “free delivery” if shoppers spend over a certain amount. Also, more people are feeling confident to purchase more expensive larger items online.

Consumers also seem to be evaluating their entire shopping experience. From the product and its longevity, to the brand and its virtue, all the way through to methods and platforms. What we may see is longer lead cycles for decision making on purchases, as the consumer deliberates on which rudiments they consider to be most valuable.

The opportunity for businesses

Attention to the game of South African politics and the compulsory participation on the economical balancing beam, has SME’s shook. We do not have to look twice to see that small businesses are the lifeblood of the South African economy. The time for pivotal decision making – for businesses and consumers alike – is here. Business models must be pandemic-proof and adaptable, in preparation for an intuitive future.
The rise of fashion friendly innovators

Let’s face it. The game changed. In fact, it was completely altered. We were handed this weird Jumanji-looking trunk, with lost players and missing instructions. Those who were disconnected, scrambled. But those who were plugged in and had their finger on the digital pulse were right where they needed to be.

We have seen innovative apps like Yaga (a marketplace for pre-loved pieces) enter the fashion-sphere with a bang. Or take Style Rotate,a luxury fashion rental agency (birthed by ex-Cosmopolitan fashion editor, Cleo Marcopoulos) that is changing the way consumers see luxury garments. All in the name of sustainable style.

The latest domain entrant or rather their most recent progression, is from fashion publication Fashion Handbook SA with the launch of their online Designer Directory. The directory is essentially a comprehensive list of local fashion brands and businesses. It helps consumers to discover local fashion in one user-friendly space. Publisher and founder of the publication, Leanne Tlhagoane, says the initiative intends to “help build a stronger fashion eco-system by connecting businesses and consumers”.

The bottom line

The fact of the matter is that consumer behaviour dictates production. More demand for local, ethical and sustainable goods leads us to more supplied commodities. It is about making better business decisions and creating a healthier fashion eco-system. One in which the industry can tick all those nice boxes and let us not forget – be profitable. Bizcommunity

Lesotho aims to ‘go big’ on agriculture amid Agoa textiles uncertainty

By Terence Creamer

Lesotho Prime Minister Dr Moeketsi Majoro

Lesotho Prime Minister Dr Moeketsi Majoro reports that the country aims to overhaul its underperforming agricultural sector with the objective of improving both food security and attracting export-oriented investment into the production of high-value crops, such as fruit, vegetables and plant-based medicinal oils.

Speaking during a webinar on September 4, Majoro described Lesotho’s agricultural recapitalisation programme as a top priority and said the country was “looking to go big on agriculture” in the coming years.

The new Prime Minister – who was appointed on May 20, having previously served as Finance Minister – said the attention being given to agriculture was informed partly by the food-security risks that arose for the landlocked country during the Covid-19 pandemic when regional borders were closed and supply-chains disrupted.

Another driver, however, was a desire to unlock the economic potential of

a sector that could support large-scale job creation and a diversification away from the country’s current reliance on clothing and textiles – a sector highly leveraged to the market access provided by the US’s Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, which was extended for a second time in 2015, but is due to expire in 2025.

The administration of President Donald Trump has indicated that it does not plan to renew Agoa, a position that may or may not be reversed depending on the outcome of America’s November Presidential elections.

Majoro said the country’s textile industry, which employs some 50 000 people, was in need of reform regardless of whether or not Agoa was extended.

He described the cut, make, trim (CMT) model adopted by many local garment manufacturers as unsustainable and said there was a need for the industry to “climb up the value chain” and embrace full-service manufacture, including design.

Beck Trading CEO Kevin Schroeder, who also participated in the online meeting, concurred, arguing that the CMT model meant that several agents stood between Lesotho’s manufacturers and the actual American buyers.

“If we sold Lesotho as a destination and dealt directly with American buyers, the margins would improve and the industry would become more sustainable, ” Schroeder said during the event, which was organised jointly by the Brenthurst Foundation and the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Foundation.

In parallel, Majoro said the Lesotho government would focus on turning around the fortunes of its agricultural sector, which was “in a crisis” even before Covid-19 struck.

“We have defined our food security essentially on a platform of open markets and being able to import, but that is extremely dangerous,” Majoro said.

“It is now clear that we must grow our own food  . . . So we have taken a decision to revive this sector and recapitalise agriculture.”

Government would invest in agricultural machinery and intends driving a policy of amalgamating small plots into larger blocks.

Majoro stressed, however, that Lesotho also intended inviting large businesses to invest in the sector, which he said had been “killed” by government mismanagement and “ad hoc” policymaking.

“Lesotho is not only ideal for grains, but it is even better for fruit and vegetables,” he enthused, noting that some of its high-value crops, such as cherries, were already being exported to South Africa and elsewhere.

The Prime Minister also saw major potential to grow the country’s production of plant-based medicinal oils, including cannabis oils.

Aquaculture investments were also being promoted, in light of Lesotho’s access to clean water resources, which recently attracted an investor planning to produce salmon for export mainly to Japan.

Tourism, especially adventure tourism, would also be promoted, with Majoro, an avid hiker himself, describing the diversity of hiking trails in the mountainous country as “endless”.

Majoro had also established an ‘Investment Delivery Unit’ within his office, which together with a ten-strong Ministerial investment promotion committee, would seek to resolve any hurdles being confronted by investors.

“Our aim is to listen to the problems and then assist,” he said, revealing that the Lesotho government was also processing, with the help of a Malaysian consultancy, over 70 potential projects with the intention of progressing them from business plans into actual investments.  EN

South Africa minimising Covid-19 impact on textile-apparel sector

More efforts have been made to localise production of personal protective equipment (PPE) to boost the retail, clothing, textile, footwear and leather (R-CTFL) sectors in light of the devastating effects of the COVID-19, South African deputy minister of trade, industry and competition Fikile Majola recently told parliament’s select committee on trade and industry, economic development, small business development, tourism, employment and labour.

“The government is committed to reviving the sector as it focuses on rebuilding manufacturing and to enable it to expand its capacity. We also are working towards significantly reducing illegal imports to eliminate unfair competition against local retailers and manufacturers,” he said.

The R-CTFL value chain’s total gross domestic product contribution is R74 billion, while its employment contribution is more than 210 000. The R-CTFL Master Plan was signed in November 2019 with seven commitments. These include growing the domestic market, driving domestic sourcing, ending illegal imports and value chain transformation.

During this period of the pandemic specific focus has been placed on intensifying support for products such as surgical and consumer masks, respirators, medical textiles, leather and footwear products, gloves and body bags, according to a press release from the department of trade, industry and competition (DTIC).

The support given includes ensuring adherence to procurement regulations and issuing of timely orders, matching of demand and supply, sourcing and ensuring availability of raw material in South Africa.  F2F

Did you know……..

Back from the War

After World War II, when men returned home from war and women returned to the home from the workplace, fashions evolved a more feminine look. Wide skirts that would have been impractical in the workplace became popular, with tiny waists and soft, flowing, feminine lines. The emphasis on softness and luxury reflected the shift from wartime austerity, and changing attitudes about women in the workplace.

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