'Fashion begins in cotton fields'

HARARE - Fashion shows are necessary for the growth of the cotton industry and clothing manufacturers industry of Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe Fashion Week organiser Pricilla Chigariro said the objective of the just-ended Fashion Week was to bring attention to the industry in a bid to revive the clothing industry of Zimbabwe.
 
“There is no reason why Zimbabwe is not a fashion power house, as is the case with South Africa and other African countries to the north,” said Chigariro.

Musing on her theme for 2013 Chigariro said: “The theme most likely will be ‘Made in Zimbabwe’, and that will merge the previously ignored supporting fashion industries such as craft, bead and wirework. Writers, photographers, critics, newspaper editors also need to be trained in order to be able to publicise and sustain the industry.”

The capacity-packed auditorium seating 336 enthusiastic fashion admirers were enthralled by the recent fashion extravaganza which took place at the Volkswagens Showrooms, on Samora Machel, in Harare.  
 
In a world with no time, it is important that we take time to review our clothing industry.  

One week of fashion is not sufficient to create a sustainable development in the clothing industry.  

There has to be an on-going series of workshops and awareness creating forums in order to educate, inform discuss and disseminate information on the economic and socio-cultural benefits of this vital industry.
 
Fashion shows are necessary to bolster the cotton industry of Zimbabwe. Most cotton producing African countries are reeling from the falling prices of cotton on the International Cotton Market.

On a world scale, Africa accounts for a 17 percent share of cotton production with 11 percent of this production coming from West Africa, where the climate and history of growing cotton are well established. Only one percent is attributed to cotton production to southern Africa.

In Zimbabwe, the cotton production statistics are alarmingly low.  

Cotton production during the 2011/2012 season has fallen from 1 500kg per hectare to 800kg, due mostly to chronic soil degradation and an erroneous reallocation of cotton producing land to growing food crops such as the staple maize.  

This drop was compounded during the last season where cotton merchants were offering a maximum of 30 cents a kilogramme of cotton, and $1 per three kilogrammes to the cotton growers.

Despite the fact that government recently promulgated Statutory Instrument (SI) 106A of 2012, declaring cotton produced in the 2011/2012 season a “Controlled Corp” meaning that only government can gazette the producer price. Under the same Statutory Instrument, ginners are compelled to pay that price.

However, contrary to this instrument no cotton buyer is paying the minimum stipulated price of US$0,77 per kilogramme, as announced by government under the (SI) 106.

Historical records in Zimbabwe show that cotton was the second largest foreign currency earner, after tobacco.  

However, is this still the case?

Zimbabwe’s dryer regions, such as Gokwe, Chriredzi, Chipinge and Masvingo have sustained the cotton industry over the years, providing income and livelihoods for close to 250 families or close to one million people.  

It must be realised, however, due to the fact that cotton prices are dependent on international market forces, the imposition of local producer prices of raw cotton cannot sustain this sector.

Fashion design is part of the value-added chain of the cotton growing industries.  

However, the industry is not making headway due to the closed spinning and clothing industries, and the closure and subsequent lack of National independent fashion design houses to carry the Zimbabwean brand.

After Egypt and Israel, Zimbabwe produces the world’s second-best quality of cotton.  

However, more than 80 percent of top grade cotton lint produced in this country is being exported in its raw state due to the lack of value addition to the product.

Perhaps more sponsors and like-minded philanthropists need to contribute to this endeavour in order to revive our erstwhile thriving industry.

As with food and shelter, clothing is a vital human necessity and fashion design is one of the most practical and creative applied arts for the development of a nation.

Other developed countries have resorted to subsidising their cotton growers to keep them in business, until the world cotton prices stabilise.

This is why it is pertinent that Zimbabwe revitalises its clothing industry and by creating a regional and international awareness of their fashion designers’ abilities.
 
 Although still in its infancy, the next three years of the Zimbabwe Fashion Week, a contribution to the cotton sector, provided they are given support by all concerned.

Fashion, after all begins in the dry fields of the country, before it can take to the fashion ramps of the city, region and the world.


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