Cities, and their inner-cities, are in constant flux. One of the reasons for this is the need to address the social and economic conditions which have resulted from the decline in manufacturing and consequent increased levels of unemployment. Regeneration is a means of addressing this problem. It requires a creative and integrated approach and necessitates developing the cultural and economic foci and resources of the city. Furthermore, regeneration also requires collaboration with various stakeholders including higher education institutions (HEIs).
Internationally, cities‘ attempts to regenerate and restore their cultural and economic foci have resulted in the emergence of fashion districts, particularly in cities such as New York (NY) and Los Angeles (LA). Such fashion districts have generally emerged as a result of clustering. Clusters are networks of interconnected businesses relating to a particular discipline, such as fashion. Fashion districts incorporate numerous fashion-related activities and businesses, such as textile and trims suppliers, wholesalers, design incubators, manufacturers, designers, and fashion design educational institutions. International experience with fashion districts suggests that clustering may be beneficial to the sustainability of the fashion sector. In South Africa, a similar fashion district has emerged in the inner-city of Johannesburg. However, despite the benefits that such fashion districts may present with regard to the regeneration of the fashion sector, it is imperative that various stakeholders, including HEIs, work collaboratively with these fashion districts.
This need for collaboration is addressed in systems theory, which underpins this paper. The paper is located within the theoretical interplay of systems such as fashion design education and fashion districts. Systems theory suggests that all structures and components are linked together. The paper, based on a PhD study, aims to contextualise three inner-city fashion districts, namely NY, LA, and Johannesburg. The paper, therefore, describes the synergy between fashion design education and fashion districts within the theoretical framework of systems theory.