Internationally, design incubators have emerged as a result of clustering. These design incubators serve as artist studios, or as design centers providing opportunities for young emerging entrepreneurs to acquire studio workspaces located within a cluster of similar economic activities.
In South Africa, design incubators, particularly fashion design incubators, have emerged in the Johannesburg Fashion District, situated within the central business district of Johannesburg. Research conducted in 2006 established that there were a number of emerging fashion designers located within the Johannesburg Fashion District design incubators. However, interviews conducted in 2012 revealed that the number of fashion designers positioned within these design incubators had declined.
This paper contextualizes the fashion design incubators within the Johannesburg Fashion District and deliberates the reasons for this decline. The paper then moves on to discuss the fundamental role of fashion design education in sustaining these fashion design incubators. The paper pursues a qualitative research paradigm employing semi-structured interviews with business stakeholder participants affiliated with the fashion design incubators. A content method of data analysis categorized the raw data into themes.
Two major themes emerged, namely, the factors contributing to the decline mentioned above, and the role of fashion design education. Given that fashion design incubators may support economic development and the sustainability of the fashion industry, fashion design education could play a central role in sustaining these design incubators. As such, this paper contributes to the development of sustainability within the fashion sector and the discourse of fashion design education within a South African context.