Cape Town - Italian ladies wear fashion designer Francesca Romana Perazzelli is in the process of introducing the Italian market to Africa's first ever indigenous cashmere designs through a partnership with South African textiles company Ivili Loboya. The South African company, based near Butterworth in the Eastern Cape province, is producing the cashmere from the soft inner hair of the local indigenous iMbuzi goat.
The yarn is showcased in a variety of fabrics, including blends with silk, mohare and merino wool, in Ivili Loboya's debut Dedani Collection, launched last month. "Dedani means 'Get out of the way!' because we intend to revive South Africa's textile industry, using local natural fibres and grabbing a niche for ourselves in the global luxury fabric market," Ivili Loboya's owner Dr Vuyo Mahlati said. "We see a great future for our pioneering fabrics as there has been significant pre-launch interest, both nationally and internationally.
"Our debut collection reflects our pride in this luxury indigenous product. Its three design ranges bring the timeless and traditional symbols into a modern world, referencing humanity's common heritage, traditions and place within nature. This is complemented by use of eco-friendly dyes from natural sources. Mahlati said Ivili Loboya, a natural fibre (wool and cashmere) beneficiation enterprise for woven and non-woven textile products, is Africa's first and only commercial cashmere production facility. "Originally, the term cashmere was applied only to goat hair from the Kashmir region of the Indian subcontinent, but usage has since broadened to all goat hair that is similarly fine and soft. Cashmere fibres are renowned for their soft handle, ultra-lightweight durability and intense thermal properties compared to wools. Cashmere is in great demand for luxury fabrics globally," she added.
The company employs 24 people and makes use of over 30 seasonal sorters and seven weaving cooperatives. It sources its fibres from 332 small farmers, many of them owned by women. Yarns for blends - such as merino, mohair and silk - are sourced where possible from local commercial agencies, communal wool producers and rural hand spinning cooperatives. Perazzelli, who was introduced to Mahlati through a friend and worked with the Dedani Collection team in South Africa, said in an email that she liked the long-term vision of the project. "Ivili Loboyo is developing a good network of people wth farmers, spinners, weavers, designers etc. I believe that we can find (Italian) companies interested in buying from us.
"The international market is highly competitive and Ivili will have to work tenaciously to develop an exquisite product. We are looking for clients who are interested in authentic and ethically produced products," she said. "This partnership marks a significant milestone in globalising rural African value chains," said Mahlati. "Putting the Dedani Collection on the Italian design and textiles centre stage is important for revitalising South Africa's clothing and textile industry. It is also important for Italian customers to be exposed to the diverse richness and sophistication of African natural fibres and authentic designs." .