In the heart of South Africa’s fashion landscape, a silent transformation is unfolding – one that intertwines heritage, innovation, and conscience. Cut, Make, Trim manufacturing businesses, often abbreviated as CMTs, are emerging as the unsung champions of a renaissance in the country’s textile industry. CMTs cut, make and trim designs into final products for designers, brands and retailers.
Beyond their role as facilitators of creative expression, CMTs in South Africa are piecing together a future that harmonises ethics, sustainability, and craftsmanship. They are also playing a pivotal role in resurrecting a dwindling legacy – the local textile industry.
The resurgence of these ethical CMTs in South Africa is contributing to the foundation for fashion that is kinder to the environment and the people it touches.
Meet the CMTs that are reshaping the fabric of local production.
The Sewing Cafe
For Athene Knemeyer, co-owner and designer of The Sewing Cafe, the venture was born from a desire to create opportunities for those left behind by unemployment and skill gaps.
Established in Masiphumelele, Cape Town, and offering services such as sample making, grading, and CMT, The Sewing Cafe distinguishes itself by its SETA-accredited Skills Training Centre. Here, formerly unemployed people gain valuable expertise, furthering their studies while contributing to high-quality, minimum-quantity orders. Athene’s goal is not only to create beautiful garments but also to instil pride, purpose, and a sense of accomplishment.
Sparrow Society, founded by Kate Brim-Senekal, echoes a powerful narrative of collective strength and change. Launched in 2013, this CMT offers more than just stitching expertise. Guided by its name, which was inspired by the resilient sparrow bird, Sparrow Society aims to stand strong against gender-based violence and social inequalities, particularly affecting women.
Situated in Muizenberg, Sparrow Society focuses on creating custom-branded cosmetic bags and tote bags while offering a comprehensive range of services from design to shipping. The secret to its social impact lies in its network of 100+ women-owned sewing businesses, collectively creating ethically made products that stand against fast fashion’s pitfalls. This is a testament to the power of unity and sustainable production.
Studio Candor, led by Tess Ashby, steps into the spotlight as a trailblazer in slow fashion. Established in 2020, the CMT aligns with Cape Town’s Observatory atmosphere, emphasising conscious consumption and a connection with the community.
Studio Candor offers a broad spectrum of services, blending craftsmanship and sustainability. With a network of small independent CMTs, Tess challenges the norm and champions ethical practices. Their “Commitment to Excellence” not only revitalises local textile manufacturing but also educates and inspires change through events like clothing swaps and workshops.
House of Moyo
House of Moyo was co-founded by the Mbiola siblings and is based in Cape Town’s CBD. Their CMT strives to turn imagination into reality. Their services encompass the full range of clothing production, from patterns to retail and wholesale.
“From startups seeking a launchpad to established brands striving for growth, our adaptable services cater to all stages of business evolution,” says operations manager and coordinator, Kashika Kumba. Yet, what sets them apart as a social impact CMT is their commitment to accessibility.
“Our remarkably low minimum order quantities bridge the gap for those who lack access to quality CMT services, enabling dreams to materialise. Additionally, our reach-back program extends a helping hand to the next generation of designers, fostering an ecosystem of support that we wish we had when we began,” adds Kashika.
Equator The Belt Factory
Based in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, within the Belt Factory™ at Equator, transparency isn’t just a buzzword; it’s the cornerstone of the business.
Equator’s focus spans beyond the factory’s walls, delving into responsible material sourcing, eco-friendly packaging, and low-impact logistics. Their mantra is clear—bold in action, transparent in communication. Equator strives to be a lighthouse guiding the industry toward a future where ethics and sustainability are woven into every thread.
Founded by Jacques Burthy in 1987, this CMT’s 36-year journey is a beacon of endurance and innovation. Specialising in natural fibres such as mohair, wool, and cotton, Vuya Knitwear embodies craftsmanship and sustainability. They offer a range of services, from industrial knitting on 1 ½ – 14-gauge machines to bespoke designs. With a commitment to quality over quantity, their small quantities (minimum of 12 units per style, per colour) showcase an unwavering dedication to slow fashion.
Their impact extends beyond the stitches, as they prioritise social responsibility with a team of six skilled individuals. With deep roots in the South African textile industry, Jacques Burthy’s journey from the factory floor to founding Vuya Knitwear Group reflects a profound understanding of the craft.
- Images: Supplied