More and more South African retailers are proudly promoting their locally made products. This is particularly prevalent in fashion, as apparel retailers pledge to bolster localization efforts to stabilize supply chains and help revive South African apparel manufacturing.

Pick n Pay Clothing x Matte Nolim collection. Source: Supplied

Pick n Pay Clothing is aiming for 60% locally sourced products by 2028, and according to Hazel Pillay, general manager of the brand, the retailer has increased the percentage of locally produced products by 12% over the past three years, despite Covid-19 challenges.

Talk to Bizcommunity in an interview, Pillay commented on the role of corporations in stimulating garment manufacturing in South Africa. “I think the big business retail community has come together to want to make a difference by creating more jobs locally, and we are successfully doing that. It’s not a quick win, but it is possible.

“All businesses, small or large, corporate or entrepreneurial, must have an intentional plan and a desire to build society from an economic perspective. We are obviously very challenged by high unemployment, but if we want our businesses to grow, we also need to help with strategies and initiatives that can stimulate local job creation.

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Foster the growth of the local design-driven apparel industry

Beyond more local sourcing and manufacturing, Pick n Pay Clothing launched its Futurewear initiative in 2020, which has the additional goal of nurturing emerging fashion talent and fostering the growth of the local clothing industry. design-driven garment by introducing designers to the retail segment.

The project, carried out in partnership with renowned South African fashion designer Gavin Rajah, sees talented young designers mentored to create a locally-made, limited-edition commercial range in collaboration with Pick n Pay Clothing to be sold in the retailer’s stores.

Throughout the development of the collaborative collection, designers gain valuable know-how and practical skills that enable them to succeed in a commercial environment and sustainably expand their own operations.

Merge creativity and commercial sensibility

For consumers, the initiative provides affordable access to designer fashion, which can be too expensive and, at times, too unconventional for the average Pick n Pay Clothing shopper.

The retailer has already collaborated with a handful of local designers since the launch of the Futurewear project – including Julia Buchanan, Katekani Moreku, Sipho Mbuto and most recently Siyethemba Duma who markets under the Matte Nolim label.

Designer Siyethemba Duma alias Matte Nolim.  Source: Supplied

Designer Siyethemba Duma alias Matte Nolim. Source: Supplied

Designers are paid to create a fashion collection of six to eight pieces that showcase their creativity while backed by the commercial sensibility of a major retail chain like Pick n Pay.

Commenting on shoppers’ response to Futurewear designer collections so far, Pillay said: “They’re excited and passionate about it. First, I think the philosophy around Futurewear being local to South Africa, customers want to support these initiatives. Secondly, even though it’s designer ranges, we make sure that even though the work stands out, it’s still a commercial product that consumers feel comfortable wearing.

“The third element is that it is affordable. Collections are priced 10-20% higher than our regular Pick n Pay range, so they are within the price range that our customers can afford.

She added: “The dichotomy of South Africa is that you serve one brand to several different customers, and although price is very critical for people who struggle to put food on the table, there is has consumers who want to support local initiatives.”

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Premium designs made accessible

The Pick n Pay Clothing x Matte Nolim range was launched last month in 40 Pick n Pay Clothing stores across the country and on the retailer’s dedicated e-commerce site. The inspiration for Nolim’s “Bloom SS” collection came from his desire to make high-end designs accessible to everyday people.

“The collection is inspired by bold florals reminiscent of my lush hometown, Pietermaritzburg. The collection’s silhouettes are feminine and flattering to the female form, with bright combinations of Hilton daisies and summery poppies,” Nolim said.

As Nolim moves into the commercial space, he is living his dream of creating an affordable range for those who want to wear his designs but cannot afford it. “Collaborating with Pick n Pay makes this possible. I’ve learned so much so far, including how to work with a bigger team.