THE Fashion District has gone cerebral – Gibs Business School has moved into the Fashion Kapitol, and is to be known as the Gibs Inner City Campus.

Gibs, the Gordon Institute of Business Science, was established in 2000, with a campus in Sandton. It offers MBA courses, corporate education programmes and a number of certificate programmes, while the Centre for Leadership and Dialogue offers training in leadership and dialogue initiatives.

Gibs has poured R1-million into the campus, a welcome investment injection into the Fashion District.

The hope, with this new campus in the heart of the CBD, was to provide students with an opportunity to “engage in real life” and learn from “rising entrepreneurs and city leaders”, said Anthony Prangley, the manager of the Centre for Leadership and Dialogue, at the opening last week.

Prangley said he wanted students to get an understanding of the bigger world, and to make a contribution to that world. Students would be closer to the Fashion District’s small businesses, and could conduct case studies of them, “to learn from rising entrepreneurs and city leaders”.

“The fully functional campus will offer students a stimulating learning environment and give students access to living case studies, whether it is in finance, marketing, strategy or talent management.”

Prangley said the new campus was in a part of Joburg that hadn’t been fully rejuvenated yet, but that it had “a great energy about it”.

“Gibs hopes to make a significant impact on the fashion district and through building the business management skills of entrepreneurs in the fashion, design and creative industries. In doing this we will help to make Johannesburg a world-class African city.”

In early 2010, Gibs went on a three-day tour of the city and in July decided to base its city campus in the Fashion District, an “exciting precinct”.

Prangley wanted Gibs to support the goal of a “globally competitive but distinctly Africa Johannesburg”. The first steps to achieve this were to run monthly entrepreneurship seminars for young designers.

Future of Joburg

Bobby Godsell, the chairperson of Business Leadership South Africa and a member of the National Planning Commission, delivered a talk entitled “The future of Johannesburg”, at the opening.

He said Joburg as a city had two economic origins: the gold mining industry and the garment industry.

In mining, there was deeply entrenched racism and racial division, he explained, while in the garment industry there was no racism. The white mine workers took on the mine bosses in the 1922 strike, trying to keep black mine workers out of the industry, whereas the garment workers’ union, led by Solly Sachs, was non-racial.

“Our future is never a given – it is determined by leadership,” he said.

Godsell was optimistic about the future of Joburg, saying it could become the Manhattan of the continent. “Unlike Cape Town, it is full of life,” he said, smiling.

Referring to how China had come to dominate the textile industry worldwide, he said “we need to combine resources in a new way”.

“Let us be who we are, let’s embrace who we are. In our identity we must create value and wealth.”

The purpose of business was to meet the needs of customers. “We need to create an entrepreneurial-friendly society. We must celebrate the guy who started with nothing and now employs three people. We must recover a sense of confidence and pride in ourselves.”

He pointed to his shirt, which was made in Ghana, and his shoes, which, although bought in London, were made of kudu leather. He encouraged Gibs to give local business people their analytical skills.

Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship

To complement this development, the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship officially opened a day before Gibs opened on 3 February.

Sir Richard Branson was present at the opening, said the chief executive, Judi Sandrock. The centre would offer support to any entrepreneurs in the garment industry, and to other entrepreneurs as well, she explained.

It is a walk-in centre, aiming to link up entrepreneurs and funders; so far, it has helped 43 entrepreneurs, who have created 200 jobs.

Every Saturday, the centre offers practical business skills workshops in Ormonde. Its assistance also extends to providing entrepreneurs with special pricing deals on printing business cards or providing bookkeepers, through its network of service providers.

Fashion Kapitol

Meanwhile, the Fashion Kapitol has scooped a major event – the Joburg Fashion Week, which opens at the kapitol on 15 February.

In all, there will be four fashion shows – at the Kapitol, the Rand Club, the Johannesburg Art Gallery and the Nelson Mandela Bridge.

Rees Mann, the brains behind the revival of the Fashion District, said the shops at the Kapitol were 50 percent let, with Bongiwe Walaza as the prime tenant. He expected that after fashion week, the 30 shops would be fully let. A coffee shop was expected to take up residence too.

Some 300 parking bays are potentially available in a building opposite the Kapitol. “I am very optimistic that shopping at the Fashion Kapitol will take off,” he added.

The Kapitol and the district as a whole have been ongoing projects of the Johannesburg Development Agency, which has pumped R9-million into the Kapitol and a further R26-million into the revamp of the greater Fashion District precinct.