Although the clothing and textile industry in SA is fighting to survive due to downgrades and job losses, these South African creatives are not letting that put a damper on their creative flare.

According to Ettienne Vlok, Director of Research for the Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers' Union, four out of every five workers in the clothing and textile industry are women, compared to other manufacturing sectors. In the last 15 years, numbers of workers in the textile industry have dropped from 200 000 to a shocking low of 19 000. Cheap imports, which then cause local factories to shut down, are the direct result of this employment drop.

But it’s not doom and gloom, the Department of Trade and Industry is doing a lot to stabilise the clothing and retail industry with many cash injections in factories across South Africa. In the last five years alone, leather and footwear exports have increased significantly. According to Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies; the clothing, textile, footwear and leather industry has been injected with a whopping R3.5 billion in incentives in the last five years, and is increasingly picking up at a stable pace.

With that, here’s a look at some South African creatives who are already slaying the international market:

  • Thabisa Mjo: At this year’s Design Indaba, Thabisa Mjo’s creation, the Tutu 2.0 Pendant Light, was named the Most Beautiful Object in South Africa. Mjo’s furniture creations feature inspired modern and cultural elements. The product designer previously walked away with “Best emerging talent”, and “Best Product” awards at the 100% Design SA for her 2017 lighting collection named "Pieces of Me”. She went on to show that collection at the 100% Design UK.
  • Dr Esther Mahlangu: Ma Esther, as she is popularly known, is known both far and wide for her original, and authentic Ndebele art creations. Her accolades include receiving a mural in New York, winning the Arts and Culture Veteran award at the Ubuntu Awards, and receiving an honorary doctorate from the University of Johannesburg. Her artwork can be found on the BMW 525i and BMW 7 series art cars, and on Belvedere Red limited bottles, in partnership with singer John Legend, among many others.
  • Laduma Ngxokolo: Textile and knitwear designer Ngxokolo, of "Maxhosa by Laduma Ngxokolo", is best known for his knitwear range inspired by his Xhosa upbringing. So famous is his work that he is currently in a legal battle with clothing giant Zara, who, this year came out with a collection that bore a strong resemblance to Ngxokolozo’s work. Ngxokolo's work has appeared in countless internal magazines and his client base includes singer Alicia Keys, actor John Kani and DJ Black Coffee. His work has sat in noteworthy museums including Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City, and he has shown at runways including the Palazzo Morando Show in Milan, Italy.