Posted On Friday, 05 October 2001 03:01 Published by eProp Commercial Property News
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Johannesburg's inner city is looking to buttonholes to improve its tattered image. 
When city managers commissioned research into the inner-city economy in 1999, they found offices there humming with the sewing machines of an entrepreneurial class. 

Graeme ReidThe Johannesburg Sewing Centre, in the east end of the city, sells 3m buttons a year. Is this a symbol of a vibrant incipient garment industry ? They were joined by garment-makers from the Southern African Development Community region and from west Africa, for whom the city infrastructure was a boon.
This new industry primarily fills orders for bigger companies, or works to order on individual garments.

The small and micro-industries will, for example, make track-suits for a local school, or bedding and linen. On any day in the environs of Polly, Kruis and Troy streets, women sit on the pavements filling cushions and duvets.
'We plan to build on what is happening organically,' says Graem Reid, CEO of the Johannesburg Development Agency. The agency has, with industry representatives, devised a business plan to grow the industry into a garment district like New York's.
The first part of the plan is to help the businesses - there are between 500 and 1 000 - strike partnerships to fill larger orders together, avoid duplication and grow the networks.

The second is to develop the area as a fashion niche. It has developed a reputation for good quality, high African fashion, says Reid, because of the flow of expertise and creativity from other parts of the continent.
'The garment industry is still vulnerable to imports,' says Reid. Sewing up a fashion niche may ensure longevity for the young industry.
Already, satellite enterprises like design schools, textile stores and haberdasheries are moving in, attracted by the local market.

The third part of the vision is medium- to long-term. The area must be clean and safe to encourage linkages with the moneyed designers of the northern suburbs and with fashion buyers for big chains.
Reid and his team also dream of big, glass-fronted show-rooms where kente cloth and jellabas nestle on local leather to give substance to the city's redefinition of itself as an 'African world-class city'.
It's a big dream, but one that is being well planned. A cleverly niched garment industry could be Johannesburg's stitch in time

Last modified on Monday, 19 May 2014 13:55

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