JANSENVILLE, South Africa — Over half of the world’s mohair — the fiber that comes from the hair of the angora goat — is produced in South Africa’s Eastern Cape, so it was fitting that the 2013 International Mohair Summit was held in the heart of mohair country, Jansenville.
This story first appeared in the December 3, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The mohair industry plays a significant role in the town, which has been identified as a “poverty node,” with high levels of unemployment. Apart from encouraging international interest in mohair, among the objectives of the summit that ran from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2 was to spur economic growth and sustainable job development through key partnerships, with the South African government and the Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform being the primary partners for this initiative.
Last year, said Deon Saayman, general manager of industry body Mohair South Africa, the country produced 2.3 million kilograms of mohair. The annual average commercial production is around 4.6 million kilograms. Neighboring Lesotho contributes a further 17 percent to the worldwide output.
Saayman added that this represented a 3 percent increase in production from last year and he hoped to increase production by 4 to 5 percent this year. He also said prices for mohair had stabilized, with the most recent sale averaging around $12.30 a kilogram across all types, although “the highest price paid for one bale of the highest quality of mohair, produced by one of our best farmers in the past summer season, was 600 South African rands [$60] a kilo.”
An investors’ conference kicked off the summit, and issues such as empowerment initiatives, animal beneficiation, development in manufacturing and intergovernmental participation were tackled, with various government officials and Mohair South Africa representatives leading the discussion.
The international appeal of mohair as a fashion fiber was demonstrated in a show that featured local Eastern Cape designers, such as Laduma Ngxokolo and Kelly Esterhuyse, alongside Sayo Takemoto and Kaori Hotta from the Japanese university Mode Gakuen. Both designers emerged as winners in a competition open to third-year fashion design students in Japan, while Esterhuyse was previously named winner of Elle Magazine’s Rising Star Design Award specifically for her work with mohair.
“It is one of South Africa’s most luxurious fabrics,” she remarked, “with diverse possibilities.”
Reinventing luxury was the theme of Colin Cowie’s presentation on mohair trends and marketing on the second day of the summit. A native of the Eastern Cape, the U.S.-based celebrity event planner and author spoke about how mohair should be more widely recognized as a luxury fiber.
“Mohair could become the new cashmere,” he said, pointing out that “there is a niche market for fibers like mohair to re-create and reinvent the luxury market, which is very big.”
Cowie said he believes there is more to mohair than just its capabilities as a fashion and home product, suggesting there is a new range of industries in which mohair could be used and promoted, such as the automotive sector.
He said the relatively small worldwide production of mohair actually gives it an advantage, as it makes it an exclusive commodity within a specialty market.
“The smaller the yield, the greater the demand,” he said. “It is imperative that we market mohair as such — an exotic and extremely lustrous fiber which can be altered and customized to clients’ preferences and satisfaction.”