South Africa’s fashion and textile industry has suffered in recent years thanks to cheap imports from China and other emerging markets, but this is starting to change thanks to initiatives like Proudly South African and consumers realising the importance of supporting local talent.


Here we talk to several experts that advise how you can support local fashion talent, while still buying affordable clothing.

Fashion’s ESG challenge
Lucilla Booyzen, CEO of SA Fashion Week, was recently hosted on Lebo Madiba’s Influence podcast where she talked about sustainable fashion and its challenges for South African designers. She highlighted that the fashion industry needs to give consumers slow and compostable fashion if it were to embrace ESG (environment, social and governance) principles.

The good news is that the local industry has already started its sustainability pledge, which is one of the many reasons why it needs to be supported. ‘As an industry, we’re clear on paying people well, limiting our usage of electricity, and the designers for example use less harmful processes for their manufacturing. We’re thus sustainable to a certain extent. Therefore, what we like to talk about is slow fashion, or compostable fashion, instead of using the term sustainable fashion,’ says Booyzen.

To encourage slow fashion the organisation runs three competitions: the new talent, the scouting men’s wear and the student competitions which tap into over 30 colleges in South Africa, with a clear focus on slow and compostable fashion.

Lebo Madiba, host of the INFLUENCE podcast

She tells Lebo on the podcast: ‘What this means is that the designers, even those recruited as students, understand what we at SA Fashion Week stand for. We realised a long time ago that we need to change, we need to be conscious of what we do and the impact thereof on our planet. And so, because fashion forms part of almost every area of our lives (i.e., it is the watch you wear, the clothes, the furniture, places, cars etc), it has become particularly important to us that we’re at the forefront of this change in attitude.’

Fashion police
SA Fashion Week is not the only organisation to host competitions to raise awareness for local fashion designers. Proudly South African is currently running a competition (launched 10 August) where you can win R20,000 in fashion vouchers to purchase garments from four prominent designers judging the competition.

Proudly South African is inviting members of the public to post selfies or photos of themselves on social media wearing South African fashion. The competition, which is in its second year, closes on 7 October 2022. To enter, you can wear locally made ready to wear garments or designer couture – the choice is yours.

Submissions will be judged by the “Local Fashion Police” – fashion designers Biji Gibbs from Biji La Maison de Couture, Sello Modupe from SCALO, Hangwani Nengovhela from Rubicon Clothing and Gavin Rajah of Gavin Rajah Atelier.

‘The garment sector in South Africa holds immense potential to create and sustain jobs. That’s why Proudly SA has launched the second instalment of Local Fashion Police to promote our clothing, textiles, footwear and leather industry, and show South Africans that wearing local is really, really lekker. So, consider this an invitation to show us how you rock that Mzansi style!’ says Happy maKhumalo Ngidi, Proudly SA chief marketing officer.

Where to buy locally made clothing

An obvious place to start would be to look at the list of independent retailers that are members of Proudly South African and that sell clothing and footwear.

Alternatively you can follow the designers that offer the best South African sustainable clothing brands and the best independently owned shops by searching online.

Well-known South African retailers like Hello PrettySuperbalist and Zando are also good places to find quality local fashion brands.

Finally, consider your typical retailers that may be promoting local fashion. This includes Pick n Pay Clothing which has just recently pledged to aim for 60% local by 2028 and reduce its reliance on imports.  Other retailers that have committed to local procurement include Foschini, Mr Price and Truworths, to name but a few.

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