Partnership underpins lustre of ‘diamond fibre’
The partnership between Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) and Mohair South Africa is highlighted in an article published in The Herald supplement, Business in the Metro on 30 November. The full article can be read below: A12-YEAR partnership between Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) and Mohair South Africa has helped raise the profile of “the diamond fibre”. Mohair South Africa (MSA) managing director Deon Saayman said the partnership had begun slowly. “It was a very small beginning where we started working with NMMU fashion design students. The objective was to give the young designers the experience of working with fibre after we realised that the younger generation didn’t know mohair. “NMMU really embraced the project from the start, which has contributed to its success.” According to Agri Eastern Cape, the 700 000 goats in the Eastern Cape account for about 52% of the global production of quality mohair. MSA sees its investment in the university and young designers as a long-term investment in sustaining demand for the fibre. “Mohair is such a niche product that young designers would not otherwise have the opportunity to work with the fibre,” says Saayman, adding that these graduates also go on to become buyers for retail chains, and hopefully include it in their collections. In addition to providing mohair to the students, MSA has been awarding bursaries to third-year students. And for the past four years, it has collaborated with NMMU as the key sponsor of its showpiece Collective fashion show. A competition for interior design students was also added two years ago. Past fashion design winners who are becoming household names in the fashion industry include Laduma Ngxokolo, Kelly Esterhuyse and Ruth McNaughton. The programme has been so successful that it has been introduced to universities abroad. Five years ago MSA entered into an agreement with Japan’s Mode Gakuen University. Third-year students there are also supplied with material, yarn and information and this gives them the opportunity to design a collection of garments and also to participate in an annual design competition. The winners travel to Port Elizabeth to take part in the Collective fashion show. Building on the foundations of its success with NMMU, MSA now also collaborates in design programmes at Nottingham Trent University in London and Donghua University in China. It also works with the young designers in the Propella business incubator on NMMU’s Bird Street premises. Propella helps designers to commercialise their work. NMMU provides further support for the mohair industry by using specialised equipment in a new purpose-built laboratory to develop quality control systems for the mohair market. NMMU is the only facility in South Africa for postgraduate studies in textile and clothing science. “Without the existence of the department it would be impossible to do the research we need,” Saayman says.