For several years, the local textile and clothing industry has suffered a serious downturn with many companies driven out of business. The decline was due to challenging manufacturing conditions and costs, as local industry was unable to compete with the flood of cheaper garments from China and other garment-producing countries such as India and Bangladesh. Between 2005 and 2014, the textile and clothing (T&C) industry was left vulnerable, with roughly 91 000 jobs lost in the “textiles, clothing, leather and footwear” manufacturing sector nationally. Identified as a sector that requires stimulation, the dti approved R4.9-billion in incentives, with more than R3.1-billion disbursed in the last financial year.

In a developing country such as South Africa, T&C industries have a massive role to play with respect to boosting the economy as it increases trade, GDP and employment. It is for this reason that the announcement of TCI’s new sustainable design centre earlier this month comes as a huge boon for the Western Cape, especially given the conditions of the current economic climate.

Using industry leading practices to lower its carbon footprint, the design centre is housed in a state of the art building and will serve as a production centre for locally celebrated retailers such as Woolworths and Truworths, as well as international retailers like Top Shop, River Island and Superdry. Herman Pillay, CEO of TCI, said that they are delighted to be able to position South Africa as a leader in green manufacturing.

Coupled with the “buy local, support job creation” campaign, the launch of the new design centre brings with it an opportunity for Cape Town to dominate the domestic T&C market. A growing number of South African retailers are now looking to local manufacturers as they can accomplish quicker turnaround times in the supply chain – this is a key advantage over goods that are imported, as retailers are able to achieve shorter lead times. Additionally, the growth of the local T&C industry puts more money into the economy and it begins to build local industries, reducing reliance on imports.

The key to achieving sustainability in the manufacturing sector, is to focus on local manufacture as these businesses are the real pillars of a prosperous economy. In addition to trade, GDP, employment, new opportunities and further re-investment, local investment is critical for stimulating entrepreneurship, innovation and greater collaboration between business and government.