Fit for a president: Ramaphosa's proud tailor hopes locals will follow suit

It took a day to make the suit worn by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday evening for his State of the Nation Address, and the company that created it hopes the presidential nod will inspire the nation to buy locally-made goods.

The bespoke suit from House of Monatic has become an unexpected symbol of faith in the local clothing manufacturing industry - a sector battling the onslaught of imports and international retail brands - after Ramaphosa mentioned the Cape Town company by name in his State of the Nation Address on Thursday evening.

During his speech, Ramaphosa spoke of the government’s plan to stimulate the long suffering manufacturing sector,  announcing that his attire for the occasion was made locally.

"The suit, the shirt and the tie I am wearing today was locally made by South African textile workers working at the House of Monatic, here in Salt River, Cape Town," Ramaphosa said.

For the company, the nod goes beyond the national attention, said Wendy Nathan, a director at the firm.

"We hope this would inspire people to buy locally made clothing. For us, it’s a call for change, to say our garments are as good as any of the brands out there."

Nathan told Fin24 that the company, which employs 500 people, mainly women, was approached by the president’s office on Tuesday, with a proposal to dress him for the State of the Nation address.

"This was an honour. We were excited. We then went all out and dispatched our design team to meet with him at this residence here in Cape Town," said Nathan.

She said the president was presented with various garment types and colours to choose from, and he settled for a dark charcoal shade for the suit and a red tie.

"Our seamstresses worked flat out to deliver the suit in time. It was done in one day," she said.

According to Nathan, the employees at the factory were excited  about "suiting the president" as word filtered through the factory floor that the company was making a suit for Ramaphosa.

Tough environment

With brands such as Carducci and CSquared, House of Monatic is a proudly South African company with nearly four decades in the trade – a feat for many clothing companies.

The industry has, over the last decade, come under severe strain from the stiff competition presented by imports and the arrival of international fast fashion retailers, resulting in mass retrenchments as factories across the country closed down.

"It is a well-known fact that the industry is suffering. One of challenges is high tariffs that companies pay for fabric imports," said Nathan.

Nathan stated that South Africa does not produce a lot of raw material, and as a result, companies are forced to source materials outside the country.

"If we could have lower tariffs, that would help reduce the burden," she said.

Buy local

In his speech, Ramaphosa urged South Africans to 'buy local' - a campaign supported by local companies and government.

"People need to be made aware that by buying locally-produced goods, they are not only growing companies, but helping create and sustain jobs," said Nathan.

In 2001, government and organised business launched the Proudly South African "buy local" campaign, in a bid to promote homegrown products.

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