Posted on 2021-02-25 16:23:42
By Eustace Mashimbye
IS IT just me, or is there a small but growing, noticeable ground swell of support for local homegrown brands coming from some very influential local quarters?
There was a time, we felt at Proudly South African, that our local personalities were denying their own, choosing expensive imported labels, especially of clothing and apparel, over home-grown excellence.
Ask many of the brands that are now well established (or even some, who, because of lack of support or endorsement by fellow South Africans have fallen by the wayside) how they were overlooked in the past, by celebrities, retailers, social media influencers and anyone else, including ordinary consumers who could have helped them up the ladder of success but chose not to.
Even when we were ignoring our own local designers, international celebrities were lured by the beauty and originality of their outfits. Back in 2018, both Beyonce and Naomi Campbell were seen sporting Rich Mnisi designs, and Alicia Keys had already grabbed herself some Maxhosa threads.
In 2019, Black Panther actress Florence Kasumba wore David Tlale to the premier of the movie, which did Wakanda so proud. Beyonce wore local couture label Quiteria & George at the 2019 Global Citizens Concert, at which Oprah rocked a Gert-Johan Coetzee gown. International retail giant H&M signed a seasonal deal with local young designer Palesa Mokubung's Mantsho label in 2019, which saw her garments in selected stores around the world. International recognition, much?
So, the world woke up to South African design excellence before even we did (although we acknowledge that some local personalities have long been stalwart supporters of their homies).
We have even had to name and shame individuals and more especially teams that chose to wear imported labels over local.
Team SA at the 2016 Rio Olympics wore a made in China ensemble at the opening parade, and the 2019 Bafana Bafana Afcon squad did a photo shoot proudly showing off their Turkish sponsored suits. Little good those did them.. (Conversely, the 2019 Rugby World Cup squad wore entirely locally made off the field uniforms and went on to win the trophy...)
But now, in a flurry of loving local, we have local soccer team Orlando Pirates wearing Tshepo Jeans (and to think when he launched, Tshepo was lambasted for his price tag !) Cassper Nyovest was an early adopter, wearing him at the Global Citizens Concert - now Tshepo has a studio in trendy Vic Yards and a store in Hyde Park shopping centre. Mamelodi Sundowns (now there's a team..) wears locally made Puma kit and their supporters' kit is also made in South Africa, TS Galaxy wears Drip Footwear, and Baroka FC is wearing Bathu sneakers, for whom Somizi has recently launched a range of takkies. We are delighted that Bathu has chosen to take up Proudly South African membership, and through a great example of the synergies that we can create between members, they are working on supplying all the footwear for OBC stores.
With such high-profile exposure, it is only a matter of time before the regular consumer catches on and Bathu, Drip, Tshepo and other local labels take off in a big way. Mainstream retailers will be clamouring to stock them. Already, local personality, Bonang Matheba's House of BNG MCC is available in Woolworths, and after the Tre Semme debacle last year, local haircare brands are at last getting more of a look in on our retail shelves.
What's not to love about local? Made by South Africans for South Africans (and for export, clearly!) And loving local is about belief in ourselves, our authenticity, our creativity and innovation. We have home grown cotton that is manufactured into fabric being snapped up by local designers and retailers, beautiful quality wool from the Eastern Cape goes into creating Maxhosa's clothing line (Eddie Murphy will be seen wearing a Maxhosa design in the movie Coming 2 American 2 on release next month and starring the beautiful local actress Nomzamo Mmbatha who is also seen in Maxhosa outfits), so we are increasing the value chain from field to shop rail, slowly but surely.
This change in attitude and mind set by the few, hopefully soon to be emulated by the many, is hugely important in spreading the buy local message. We are grateful to our role models, popular icons and leaders for setting the example. If, as parents and teachers we can do the same thing and instil in our children the importance of supporting local - and that local is on point as well as lekker - we can turn a groundswell into a tsunami of local demand and can have an even greater impact on this important clothing and textile sector.
Local demand creates jobs for the cotton and sheep farmers, spinners, dyers, pattern cutters, zip makers and many other skilled and semi -skilled roles that go into the creation of fashion items.
So next time you go to buy a dress, suit, pair of socks, sneakers or any clothing item, be sure to look for Made in South Africa, as this represents the best of what comes out of an industry that has traditionally employed a lot of our people, our Special Star, to quote one of my most favourite celebrated local hits by Mango Groove.
Eustace Mashimbye is the chief executive of Proudly South African
*The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL or of title sites