Connect with us

Snapshots

Earthchild: Jonathan Katz

Perseverance and differentiation pay off for local fashion label.

Juliet Pitman

Published

on

Jonathan Katz

Jonathan Katz, founder and managing director of Earthchild Clothing Group, is the first to admit that the clothing industry is not for the fainthearted. He should know, having entered the business with what he describes as ‘zero knowledge’ of the industry. “It’s expensive, susceptible to general economics and highly competitive,” he says. Cheap Asian imports, the influx of big-name labels and the global recession haven’t made things any easier for the local fashion market.

These hurdles make the success of the Earthaddict and Earthchild clothing brands all the more impressive. With 20 stores operating in some of South Africa’s most exclusive retail shopping centres, the brands have secured their place in the niche aspirational fashion market – no mean feat for a local fashion label. Katz’s recipe for success includes tenacity, true differentiation, a single minded focus on building a niche brand and the ability to adapt global lessons to a local business.

Never give up

In the late 90s Katz was selling the company’s clothing range from a spare room at home, but demand from word-of-mouth customers was growing and the business needed to take its first leap into acquiring retail space. “Right from the word go I wanted this to be a niche fashion brand, so when it came to getting a store, it was critical that we were in the right retail centre.

The V&A Waterfront was the perfect position,” he explains. Perfect it may have been but accessible it was not. With only 100 stores available and 900 applicants, among them some of the big name international fashion labels, the Earthchild Clothing Group’s chance of securing a spot were slim. “We were unknown without any proof of concept, but I wanted that store,” Katz relates. He set about getting it through pure perseverance. “I called the gentleman in charge of leasing and I just about harassed him into seeing me. I said to him, ‘Just give me ten minutes’ and eventually he caved and gave me a meeting slot three weeks down the line,” he says. The first flagship store opened in 1997, with Katz repeating the performance in securing a second store in the exclusive Hyde Park Shopping Centre within six months.

Building a niche brand through true differentiation

But tenacity wasn’t the only reason the brand got off to a flying start. Katz’s vision to create an aspirational niche fashion label has been behind all of the company’s best decisions. “I believe we got the store at the V&A Waterfront, and the later one in Hyde Park, because people saw something different in the brand. I knew that to make it in the industry, there would have to be something more to our clothing than just fashion appeal. In order to build a niche brand, you have to create something that’s aspirational,” he says. The brand’s identity is founded on easy-to-wear clothing made from superior fabrics, with inspiration drawn from the natural fibres and tones of the earth. A large percentage of the clothes are made from organic cotton and the company was well ahead of the market in establishing itself as a luxury brand that cares about the planet. In 2006 the company founded the Earthchild Project, an NGO that focuses on the education and well-being of children from historically disadvantaged groups, further cementing its standing as a responsible brand with a social conscience and imbuing the brand with additional value.

Together, Earthaddict and Earthchild cater to three generations, from newborns to 60-plus-year-olds, giving the brand a wide market scope. Drawing on global lessons Katz has also learned from the lessons of others in the global fashion industry. At one time, the company owned the full design, manufacture and retail value chain, employing 80 seamstresses in a factory. As Katz points out, however, this is a hefty undertaking for a small business. “Clothing design, clothing manufacture and clothing retail are all very specific and come with their own requirements and challenges,” he says. An experiment outsourcing the manufacture of the clothing to a local
concern turned out to be a disaster. “We were a small fish in their big pond and didn’t get the attention and service that we needed,” he explains. It was only when he was invited to a fashion trade show in Las Vegas that he started to understand the concept of global outsourcing. “However, we’ve always been proudly local so I wanted to keep everything in Africa,” he says. His solution lay in outsourcing manufacture to Mauritius and Madagascar, both of which are considered part of the African continent. The arrangement is working well, although Katz points out that it’s still important to control the quality in the supply chain.

Keeping exclusive

In spite of the brands’ success, he’s cautious about growing too quickly. “I think it‘s a mistake to open too many stores at once. You need to be careful about diluting the brand offering,” he says. To this end he’s highly selective about which locations he’ll sign the brands to. “The right retail centre is not enough – it has to be the right store in the right location within the right retail centre,” he explains.
And although the company receives plenty of enquiries from people wanting to open stores abroad, Katz is just as selective on this front. “We’ve got one proof of concept store in Canada but we’ll enter the international market when the time is right,” he says, outlining the company’s plans to establish a critical mass of ten to fifteen stores in a single territory before further expansion.

Player: Jonathan Katz
Est: 1992
Contact
+27 21 511 3010
www.earthchild.co.za

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

Snapshots

27 Of The Richest People In South Africa

Here are 27 of South Africa’s richest people, but how did they achieve this level of wealth? Find out here.

Nicole Crampton

Published

on

Prev1 of 28

27-of-the-richest-people-in-south-africa

Learn the secrets of SA’s most successful business people, here is the list of the 27 richest people in South Africa:

In a world with growing entrepreneurship success stories, victory is often measured in terms of money. The feat of achieving a place on this list is, however, years of hard work, determination and persistence. “One has to set high standards… I can never be happy with mediocre performance,” advises Patrice Motsepe.

From the individuals that made the 27 of the richest people in South Africa list, actual entrepreneurs and self-made business people dominate the list; while those who inherited their fortunes have gone on to do even bigger and better things with their wealth. Over the years, some have slipped off the list, while others continue to climb higher and higher each year.

  1. Elisabeth Bradley
  2. Sharon Wapnick
  3. Bridgette Radebe
  4. Irene Charnley
  5. Wendy Ackerman
  6. Paul Harris
  7. Wendy Appelbaum
  8. Mark Shuttleworth
  9. Desmond Sacco
  10. Giovanni Ravazzotti
  11. Markus Jooste
  12. Gus Attridge
  13. Gerrit Thomas Ferreira
  14. Cyril Ramaphosa
  15. Adrian Gore
  16. Raymond Ackerman
  17. Michiel Le Roux
  18. Lauritz Dippenaar
  19. Jannie Mouton
  20. Stephen Saad
  21. Patrice Motsepe
  22. Allan Gray
  23. Koos Bekker
  24. Ivan Glasenberg
  25. Christoffel Wiese
  26. Johann Rupert
  27. Nicky Oppenheimer
Prev1 of 28

Continue Reading

Snapshots

Watch List: 50 Top SA Black Entrepreneurs To Watch

South Africa needs more entrepreneurs to build businesses that can make a positive impact on the economy. These up-and-coming black entrepreneurs are showing how it can be done.

Nicole Crampton

Published

on

Prev1 of 51

top-black-entrepreneurs-to-watch

Early-stage South African entrepreneurial activity is at an all-time high of 11%, according to Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, and entrepreneurial intentions have also increased to 11.7%. With both activity and intentions growing significantly year-on-year, there are more businesses opening up around South Africa than ever before.

The increase in entrepreneurship has seen the rise of more black entrepreneurs across numerous sectors. From beauty brands to legal services and even tech start-ups, these are 50 top black entrepreneurs to watch:

Prev1 of 51

Continue Reading

Snapshots

Watch List: 50 Top SA Small Businesses To Watch

Keep your finger on the pulse of the start-up space by using our comprehensive list of SA small business to watch.

Nicole Crampton

Published

on

Prev1 of 51

50-top-sa-small-businesses-to-watch

Entrepreneurship in South Africa is at an all-time high. According to Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), total early-stage entrepreneurial activity has increased by 4.1% to 11% in 2017/2018. This means numerous new, exciting and promising small businesses are launching and growing.

To ensure you know who the innovative trailblazers are in the start-up and small business space, here are 50 of South Africa’s top establishing companies to watch, in no particular order:

  1. Livestock Wealth
  2. The Lazy Makoti
  3. Aerobuddies
  4. Mimi Women
  5. i-Pay
  6. AfriTorch Digital
  7. Akili Labs
  8. Native Décor
  9. Aerobotics
  10. Quality Solutions
  11. EM Guidance
  12. Kahvé Road
  13. HSE Matters
  14. VA Virtual Assistant
  15. Famram Solutions and Famram Foundation
  16. BioTech Africa
  17. Brand LAIKI
  18. Plus Fab
  19. LifeQ
  20. Organico
  21. 10dot
  22. Lenoma Legal
  23. Nkukhu-Box
  24. Benji + Moon
  25. Beonics
  26. Brett Naicker Wines
  27. Khalala
  28. Legal Legends
  29. The Power Woman Project
  30. Aviro Health
  31. AnaStellar Brands
  32. Data Innovator
  33. Fo-Sho
  34. Oolala Collection Club
  35. Recomed
  36. VoiceMap
  37. ClockWork
  38. Empty Trips
  39. Vula Mobile
  40. SwiitchBeauty
  41. Pineapple
  42. The Katy Valentine Collection
  43. OfferZen
  44. KHULA
  45. Incitech
  46. Pimp my Book
  47. ART Technologies and ART Call Management
  48. Prosperiprop
  49. WAXIT
  50. The Sun Exchange
Prev1 of 51

Continue Reading
Advertisement

SPOTLIGHT

Advertisement

Recent Posts

Follow Us

Entrepreneur-Newsletters
*
We respect your privacy. 
* indicates required.
Advertisement

Trending