It’s not everyday you get to rub shoulders with some of the country’s top CEOs, so I savoured the moment recently when I attended the opening of Africa’s first ‘green’ clothing manufacturing design centre. The state-of-the-art facility in Epping is owned by TCI Apparel, suppliers to retail giants Woolworths, Truworths, Queenspark, TFG and Edcon, among others.
The centre is the first industrial building of its kind with a sharp focus on being environmentally sensitive, says TCI Apparel CEO Herman Pillay. This is achieved through green building practices and the use of eco vinyl tiles, LED lighting, solar power, indoor plants, strategically tinted windows which retains heat in winter and expels in summer, environmentally sensitive ceiling boards, living walls and a vegetable garden that will be utilised by the canteen providing meals for employees.
The furniture in the centre is locally produced and made of recycled plastic, wood and steel; thereby supporting local industry as well as greatly lowering their carbon footprint.
Given the current water crisis in the Western Cape, the design centre has been engineered to save every possible drop, says Pillay. By utilising borehole water for ablutions and redirecting rainwater that would otherwise have gone unused into 40000 litre storage tanks, TCI Apparel is not only saving what’s left of the frightfully limited municipal supply but also cutting the costs of producing some of the world’s top brands without cannibalising quality.
“The garment industry has, in recent years, been one of the largest contributors to global carbon emissions,” says Pillay. “For this reason, we found it to be of the utmost importance to reduce the environmental impact of our operations in every conceivable way – from operations and processes to architecture and furniture choices.”