The name of Sonwabile Ndamase, the fashion designer behind the famous Madiba Shirt, hung in the air as a new Fashion Design Innovation Centre was launched in Mthatha, a rural town in the Eastern Cape.
The Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry Thandi Tobias-Pokolo launched the centre at the Eastern Cape Arts and Craft Hub in Mthatha last week and urged young designers to take advantage of the centre and to become creative and innovative designers. The launch fits into a broader plan which seeks to harness South Africa’s fashion business into a global affair. The global fashion industry is a ‘trillion dollar affair’ and can be a great source of economic growth and job creation for the youth.
Gcobisa Duba who is one of the first six beneficiaries invoked the name Sonwabile Ndamase in expressing her hopes and excitement. The graduate from Walter Sisulu University said her designs are inspired by the Xhosa tradition. “I am currently not working, and would like to have my own designs like Sonwabile Ndamase who also hails from the Eastern Cape and has made a name for himself,’’ added Duba.
Also hailing from the Eastern Cape, Ndamase who created the colourful shirts won by former South African President Nelson Mandela, the Madiba Shirt, has become an inspiration for young designers across the country. His success also displays the potential to take the world by storm through locally centred fashion designs. It is a potential displayed by many other success stories including Stone Cherry and the high flying David Tlale. It is this potential which has pushed organisations like the National Empowerment Fund (NEF) and Patrice and Precious Motsepe to invest millions into South Africa’s fashion industry.
The DTI said the Eastern Cape broader fashion design industry will be boosted the launch of the Mthatha based Fashion Design Innovation Centre.
“This centre is one of many interventions of government to empower its citizens with skills and training, which will lead to cutting down the unemployment rate,” said Tobias-Pokolo.
She added that South Africa has sufficient talent that can produce best designs if it could be appropriately nurtured.
The DTI said the centre was expected to create a conducive environment for fashion designing to flourish in the Eastern Cape by assisting designers in the province to unleash their creative potential and compete equally with designers in other parts of South Africa.
Fashion design graduates from the Walter Sisulu University and sewing groups that have been established around OR Tambo and Alfred Nzo districts will receive technical training in all aspects of clothing manufacturing at the new centre.
Tobias-Pokolo said the centre will help boost the economy of Eastern Cape by producing job creators, in a form of fashion designers. This, she said, is because it will provide relevant training, guidance and technical consultation to the industry, collaborate with tertiary education institutions in relevant human capital development and attract world-class skills and capability in certain specialised areas.
The Deputy Director-General for Broadening Participation at the Department of Trade and Industry, Mr Sipho Zikode emphasised that the new challenge for the youth was no longer apartheid, but acquiring skills and developing their own businesses and competing with their counterparts in other countries.
Zikode encouraged the young designers to not only acquire skills, but also to approach the dti for assistance in setting up their businesses.
The MEC for Eastern Cape Department of Sports, Recreation, Arts and Culture Ms Xoliswa Tom, expressed her gratitude for the launch of the centre. She said that young people are the hope of the country and that South Africa needed to invest on them.
“We need young people who are not going to sit and wait for things to happen. We want creative and innovative young people who will create jobs,” added Tom.