The South African clothing industry is tyring to shore itself up against increasing competition from global fashion giants keen to tap into lucrative local markets. David Pollard reports.
A leisurely stroll down the cat walk for Cape Town fashion week. Behind the scenes, there's a frantic race to get clothes into stores. Quickest off the blocks are the giants like Zara-owner Inditex. It pioneered so-called "fast fashion" and can go from design to shop in two weeks. But the locals are nipping at their heels. Sam Schaffer is managing director of Rotex Fabrics. (SOUNDBITE) (English) SAM SCHAFFER, MANAGING DIRECTOR, ROTEX FABRICS SAYING: ''Over the past five years or so, four years maybe even three and a half years, there has been a comeback in the industry and this has been brought by fast fashion. So what I mean by that is that the retailers are looking to bring goods in on a quick response basis. They want to have new goods in their stores on a six to eight week cycle." Overheads are still an issue for the textile industry here. A cotton T-shirt costs around 2 dollars to produce in South Africa. The same shirt just over a dollar in Turkey, as little as half that in China. But that could be changing. (SOUNDBITE) (English) SAM SCHAFFER, MANAGING DIRECTOR, ROTEX FABRICS SAYING: "Look at China itself, their cost of labour has gone up dramatically over the past five to six years that coupled with the fact that the exchange rate the Rand is weakened and that has allowed, enabled us to become more competitive without doing anything.'' Good news after some threadbare years. South Africa had sixteen hundred plants two decades ago. That's down to around 900 now. But the government's ploughed money into new production lines and technology. Making a sector with a value of 15 billion dollars at the end of last year go from looking good to looking a little bit better.