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Fashion brightens downtown Johannesburg

Joburg catwalks highlight South Africa's developing talent and industry.

The Johannesburg Development Agency is hoping that fashion week also provided an economic boost to the downtown, noting that New York Fashion Week is worth about $770 million to that city’s economy. To this end, African Fashion International, the group that owns Joburg's fashion week, have partnered with South African tourism and development agencies to try and use fashion to promote the city and its creative talent.

Tourism agencies are already marketing Johannesburg as Africa’s fashion capital. It is a hot spot for shopping on the African continent. Seventy percent of visitors come from other African countries, such as Ghana and Nigeria, and many of them shop while in town, according to the Johannesburg Tourism Company. Now the focus is on lifting the profile of local designers.

Last year, two South African cities — Cape Town and Johannesburg — made it to a list of the world's top fashion cities, squeaking in at numbers 23 and 25, according to U.S.-based Global Language Monitor, which tracks trends in language usage.

Sugen Pillay, global manager of events for South African Tourism, said that in promoting “fashion tourism,” in particular to European and American tourists as well as a growing number from India and China who are visiting the country, the focus is on appealing to young professional travelers looking for a different cultural experience.

“I think a lot of people don’t know that the city of Johannesburg has such diversity and energy,” he said. “Joburg is the heartbeat of culture in South Africa.”