At Standard Bank, we’ve recognised that designers have power: not only does every person need and love clothes, but the most revered names in fashion all have established business empires that employ thousands.
Yet, of these attire juggernauts, very few are African. The global fashion industry is worth USD3 trillion, but Africa – even with its population of 1.216 billion – claims just one percent of that. It’s not as if the continent lacks talent, resources and manpower; rather, the problems are business-related, such as lack of access to supply chains – both national and international – mentors and skills development opportunities. We are on a mission to change this.
Earlier this year, we launched South Africa’s first fashion accelerator, Threads. In partnership with Mercedez-Benz and curated by the Università Cattolica in the world’s fashion capital of Milan. The programme is designed to help South African fashion entrepreneurs reach their next through the development of critical business skills such as logistics, ecommerce, franchising, accounting and marketing, among other disciplines.
We recently completed the first phase of our Threads endeavour, The Selection Process, in which 12 fashion entrepreneurs were selected from Kwa-Zulu Natal, Gauteng, the Eastern Cape and the Western Cape. This phase consisted of two steps: the first was the online application, which evaluated the participants on their basic business and financial understanding, as well as the solidity of their business structure. The second was a day-long boot camp (one held in each province), where applicants were tested on key business skills.
The 12 chosen entrepreneurs are now about to enter phase 2, The Accelerator. Taking place on four regional campuses, the 12-week curriculum features intense modules encompassing reading material, classes, academic papers, case studies, group projects, tests and field trips – all of these overseen by five judges, experts in their respective fields of fashion, public relations and communications, branding and design, business, and entrepreneurship.
At the end of the programme in March 2018, the participants will present a business case in front of the judges and a review committee. This is phase 3, Graduation and Announcement of the 2017 Edition Winner.
Though the possibilities for partnerships and collaboration are endless during the accelerator phase, competition is fierce, as only one entrepreneur will be selected for the fourth and final phase, International Trade Trip. This is the part in which the overall winner will be taken on an international trade trip to Europe where he/she will be introduced to fashion industry stakeholders, enabled to present his or her product lines to department store buyers and retailers, and attend the biggest B2B trade fairs.
“SMEs that take advantage of globalisation by breaking into international markets have a 30% higher chance of sustainability and profitability in their home market,” says Cleo Zwane, Senior Business Banking Marketing Manager at Standard Bank “By driving entrepreneurship throughout South Africa, Threads hopes to take the South African fashion industry to the rest of the world, and encourage the continent’s progress.”