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Clothes do more than simply cover up or accentuate our bodies, they are an extension of how we feel and interact with the world, says Mark Frame, CEO of Frame Leisure Trading and pioneer of The Cross Trainer’s highly acclaimed athleisure brand, XT.

Frame’s sentiments come as the XT range celebrates reaching another milestone, growing its footprint from 30 outlets to now being available in all 60 stores of The Cross Trainer nationwide, despite the current difficult trading conditions.

“Successfully launching a new product can be tough, risky and requires meticulous execution across the board, especially when a brand such as XT, has been years in the making. Even during Covid and reduced mall traffic, we remained confident that we had a stellar brand on our hands when we launched earlier this year. When we saw how fast the affordable XT range left the shop floor, we knew that we had created something truly incredible and had to expand it to the whole country. We first made it available online and then expanded into other outlets,” explains Frame.

Beyond the brand’s affordability, Frame attributes XT’s surging success to its glocalisation approach and the prioritisation of sustainability through using environmentally friendly materials. Furthermore, the XT range collaborates with locally established design studios; Koop Studio and The Faktory for Designers which provide a mentoring and upskilling service to young designers. Along with homegrown artists, the XT range sets a new standard of fashion and empowers the very communities apparel aficionados come from.

According to research led by the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC) and the South African Cotton Cluster, designers who form part of the clothing and textile sector in South Africa, contributed approximately R1-billion to South Africa’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) during 2019.

For Frame, the fashion retail industry’s estimated contribution to the country’s GDP is a clear indication of what is possible when South Africa prioritises local manufacturing.

“The country has shown it has an appetite for quality, locally produced goods and this extends beyond the textile and fashion spheres. South African products are world-class but local retailers and manufacturers often have to battle a slew of challenges to get their products to market and as a result, most designers, manufacturers, and retailers choose to sell their goods online,” says Frame.

He says, while this approach is a method of overcoming one barrier, unfortunately, it also isolates a huge chunk of the market as not every customer has access to connectivity or bank cards to conduct digital payments. According to a Deloitte study, South Africa has as many as 20% or 12 million unbanked citizens.

“This was one of our motivating factors to grow the number of stores so that people can find the XT range. As an apparel retailer, we understand that our connection with fashion goes beyond the pragmatics of just wearing clothes. The way we dress also reflects the changing spirit of our modern society and the pursuit of authenticity. It is therefore vital to offer people the means to set themselves apart and to give them something they can intrinsically identify with,” concludes Frame.

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