Shweshwe sales 20% up

A RENOWNED textile company once on the brink of collapse is now enjoying bumper sales of its original shweshwe fabric.

Increased demand from the overseas market and a growth in its use for children’s clothing have lead to a 20% increase in shweshwe fabric sales for Zwelitsha-based Da Gama textiles.

Bongiwe Walaza
ELEGANT: Bongiwe Walaza in her original ’shweshwe’ dress Picture: SIMON DEINER

This is according to the company’s home sewing division sales manager, Anwar Vahed.

“Our increased sales show that consumers prefer quality and the genuine shweshwe, rather than cheap look-alike imports,” he said.

The company ran into trouble a decade ago when cheap Chinese-made fabrics began flooding the South African market, which left the country’s textile industry hanging by a thread.

The Chinese fabric and clothing came in cheaper than the global commodity price of cotton, owing to Chinese government incentives and cheaper labour. As result Da Gama had to close its operations in Mdantsane, though it continued manufacturing at its Zwelitsha plant.

Da Gama spokesperson Linda Sparg said employment had stabilised. “We are optimistic about growing our market presence for original shweshwe – which is our key product – as well as for our workwear fabrics and furnishing fabrics.”

A capital injection of R15-million from the Department of Trade and Industry’s productivity incentives programme last year proved fruitful as the company was able to double production while reducing operating costs.

According to Vahed, Da Gama’s shweshwe is 100% cotton while cheaper shweshwe look-alikes are usually polycotton.

“Original shweshwe fabric is strong and colourfast. The hues are radiant and jewel-like because of the unique dyeing method we use.”

Renowned designers such as Bongiwe Walaza and Nobukhosi Nkosi mainly use original shweshwe in their designs. Eastern Cape born Walaza declared her love for original shweshwe in an interview.

“I love shweshwe, it’s something I know from my childhood.”

At last year’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Johannesburg Nkosi showed purple and fuchsia original shweshwe skater skirts.

According to reports, the skirts were sold out at all the Young Designer Emporium branches that stocked them.

Some events that put shweshwe on the world map in 2013 include a British exhibition titled “Social Fabric Textiles Today” abd Africa Fashion Week in London, where a number of shweshwe designs were showcased. —