From the Series
Love South Africa? Buy South African! This is the crux of a new initiative, Love ZA Buy ZA, by fashion sisters Marian and Louise Park-Ross. The duo, particularly known through the brands Mungo & Jemima and GOOD Clothing, recently launched a campaign that encourages consumers to put their money where their mouth is by buying garments produced locally.
The sad story of textile mills and clothing factories being forced to close due to competition from (cheaper) imports is now well documented in South Africa, with the skills of thousands of seamstresses being lost along the way.
“From having the shops we’ve come to realise how important it is for customers to understand that buying local really does have an impact,” Marian says. “Unless we really push for a reason to buy local, why should anyone? It is about creating consciousness – first and foremost.”
Admittedly not the first initiative of its kind, the sisters say this campaign is distinguished by the way it plugs into a design aesthetic. “We wanted to do something that is design-based with a great logo, something that you would be proud to be aligned with,” Louise elaborates.
After the logo was designed by Fuel Design, the next step was making a video that conveys the message of Love ZA Buy ZA in a poignant way. Louise and Marian teamed up with Shoestring Productions to make The Good Dress, a short film about the journey of a locally produced garment. Beautiful, honest and heartfelt, the video struck an emotional cord with many who viewed it.
With the logo, video and (half) a website Marian and Louise launched Love ZA Buy ZA at Design Indaba Expo 2013.
“The response has been amazing,” both agree. “We envision it being not just about us and not just about clothing but having other design businesses supporting the cause too. Ultimately we want it to grow into a movement that encompasses all the creative industries and not just fashion per se,” Marian says. Louise carries on: “We are fashion so that is how it had to start.” But it has the potential to grow organically. There’s even been some surprise interest from foodies and a local soap brand.
Louise believes that it is the film that really did it and points out that everybody that worked on the video did it for free. “It was a work of love because it is just such a good cause and people really care.”
It was also a great way to show the seamstresses what they are part of, the journey of the completed products. Louise explains that seeing somebody wearing their completed garment is not something the seamstresses often see but it is something they can take pride in.
The sisters admit that the details of the campaign are still evolving but ultimately it is about creating awareness around how choosing to buy a locally produced garment really does make an impact.
“To understand where a product comes from and how it has been made helps to create a different kind of appreciation for it,” says Marian.
From the outset the duo wanted to ensure that the campaign wasn’t about making people feel guilty about their clothing choices. Rather, Love ZA Buy ZA seeks to become something desirable, something that people are proud of and want to be associated with. It’s the thinking that goes “I buy local… I create jobs, I buy local… I build my country”, Marian explains. It’s about creating a consciousness, informing and educating customers about the knock-on benefits of buying local.
In its most simplified form the campaign makes it cool to buy local, and makes it easy to make that choice at shop level.
Love ZA Buy ZA is about making South African design desirable, creating a demand for locally produced clothing. Marian emphasises that in any business it is about supply and demand. If there is a demand, the supplier can keep producing and jobs can be kept and created. “Job creation and empowerment is the point, but not the thrust of the campaign,” she says. The campaign is simply about making a cool choice, with the effect of that choice resulting in maintained employment further down the value chain. “Build your country” is an underlying ethos in the campaign. “Only us as consumers can make this place work,” Marian believes.
Slick, curated and unfailingly positive, Love ZA Buy ZA is simply about good choices.