India's apparel and textile industry is on an expansion drive, looking at new markets like South Africa, writes fashion commentator Renato Palmi

The India Clothing and Textile Trade Show held at the Durban International Convention Centre recently highlighted the importance of South Africa to the developmental growth of India's clothing, textile and fashion sector.

Durban has the largest Indian Diaspora outside India and cementing closer links with the two countries through fashion can create a path of mutual sustainable economic benefits. The injection of large capital by Durban businesses into an expanding Indian market will create further competition within the South African apparel landscape.

However, instead of looking at the negative aspects alone, it is important to acknowledge that the South African clothing industry, and in particular the clothes and fashion sector in KwaZulu-Natal (due to the cultural and historical links here), can and need to explore mutually beneficial links.

Indian fashion sectors are already exploring these ties by experimenting with and developing cultural imagery that will appeal to the Indian population.

India's clothing and textile sector continues to grow, as is apparent by the existence of more than 20 000 members of its Clothing Manufacturers Association of India. The country has existing export councils ranging from textile to fashion councils, whose primary focus is to globally promote these industry sectors. It is estimated that the Indian textile sector will grow to nearly $90 billion (R672bn) by 2011.

The country is the second largest, after China, in worldwide textile development. In the last quarter of 2009, India's $5bn textile export sector had marginal drops due to the global recession and declining orders from the US and Europe. Indias industry is not immune to global economic shifts, with its government allocating around $510m to assist domestic textile companies last year. The industry is on an expansion drive not just here but in Japan, South America and New Zealand as well.

With their range of textiles, efficient manufacturing systems and a strong institutional support system, India's dominance in the global market may grow to such an extent that they will be seen by China as a serious competitor. Many Indian designers are also beginning to influence trend development and fashion branding.

The South African industry can learn from the support structures the Indian government and their textile sectors have in place for promoting Indian style, as they have a collaborative focus, working as a collective for the betterment of the industry.

Originally Published in the Mercury newspaper: 11th May 2010, South Africa