Nothing makes me more excited than getting the opportunity to tell local stories and Cape Union Mart’s K-Way brand is a local story worth shouting from the rooftops. To tell you the truth, it never occurred to me that K-Way was a home sewn brand. I thought it was just another international brand brought into the country and repackaged with a different name. I’m not sure why but we South Africans always seem to think that the best stuff is made overseas, but after being invited to a tour of the K-Way factory in Observatory, Cape Town it was clear that we don’t need to look very much further than our own shores to find brands and products that are a cut above the rest.
Of course, a factory isn’t the most glamorous place to spend a morning but when K-Way extended an invite to a few journos to visit their local manufacturing hub I jumped at the chance to see what goes into making the brand that I love so much (I mean, there isn’t a gal out there who doesn’t want a fancy-pants K-Way puffer). I expected to see a room full of imported clothes being relabelled and stamped with the K-Way logo but instead, I found a super productive factory floor filled with smiling workers sewing away with speed and precision. To give you an idea of the scale, the K-Way sewing room floor produced a whopping 450 000 garments in 2014 alone! I was also amazed to find that not only does K-Way have some of the best outdoor garment technology in the world, but they can also produce world leading outdoor garments at cheaper prices than their international counterparts (true story).
Above the sewing, floor sat a team of designers and even more seamstresses whipping up new and exciting ideas for the coming season. And, once again, if you think the K-Way buyers and designers just pop off overseas to steal garments and remake them here, think again. While the do draw inspiration from new technologies and designs found overseas, everything in the K-Way range is designed from scratch for the South African market. It truly is an impressive operation.
K-Way is known for its innovation in garment manufacturing and has been at the forefront of the industry in South African for many years. K-Way was the first manufacturer of rain- and storm-proof, seam-sealed, foul weather protective clothing in South Africa and have more recently become the first African manufacturer to use Sew free® technology in the production of technical clothing. K-Way’s technical clothing continues to be crafted using the brand’s tried and tested methods. This includes stitching together coated or laminated waterproof fabric with conventional sewing machines and sealing the sewn seams with special machinery which melt the polyurethane applied to the seams, rendering them waterproof – thus creating the foul weather garments with which K-Way has become synonymous.
But where does all this innovation come from? The company has been around for 36 years and the experience shows in its innovative factory management style. The factory is so well run that they can manufacture garments in a matter of days if new stock of a particular item is needed. But K-Way hasn’t only been equipping adventurers with apparel and gear to explore the great outdoors, the company has also played a part in addressing the unemployment crisis. In its 36 year existence, the company has never retrenched an employee and over 75% of its 200 staff have been with the company for 5 years or more.
So the next time you pop into a Cape Union Mart store in search of some winter or outdoor gear keep an eye out for the proudly South African home sewn label on each K-Way garment and take a moment to appreciate what great brands like this do for our country.
Want to know more? Find out more about K-Way and explore the latest winter range here.