The textile and clothing industry plays a vital role in Zimbabwe’s manufacturing sector, providing thousands of jobs and accounting for a sizable portion of the country’s exports. Zimbabwe boasts a long tradition of textile production dating back to the early 20th century. Today, the nation is home to a diverse range of clothing manufacturers producing everything from high-end fashion items to basic garments for everyday use.
The clothing manufacturing sector comprises companies of varying sizes, from large-scale producers supplying global brands to smaller enterprises focused on the domestic market. Overall, clothing accounts for about 18% of Zimbabwe’s total manufacturing employment. The industry has faced challenges in recent years due to economic difficulties, but remains an important contributor to the country’s economy.
This article profiles the top clothing manufacturers in Zimbabwe. It provides an overview of the major players driving the growth and success of the nation’s apparel industry. The companies highlighted represent leading names in Zimbabwean fashion design as well as high-volume producers focused on basic clothing and uniform manufacturing.
From pioneering brands that have been household names for decades to relative newcomers making their mark through innovation and trendsetting design, these manufacturers demonstrate the dynamism and capabilities of Zimbabwe’s clothing sector. The following sections explore the history, manufacturing operations, product range, market focus, and competitive strengths of the top Zimbabwean clothing producers.
David Whitehead Textiles
David Whitehead Textiles is one of Zimbabwe’s oldest and most recognized clothing manufacturers. The company has a long and storied history that dates back over 50 years.
David Whitehead was founded in 1947 by Scottish textile engineers David and Andrew Whitehead. The brothers set up a textile mill in Chegutu to produce fabrics for the domestic market. In 1965, the company expanded into clothing manufacturing through the acquisition of a shirt factory in Kadoma.
Over the decades, David Whitehead grew into one of the largest integrated textile firms in Zimbabwe. At its peak, the company operated nine manufacturing sites across the country and employed over 5,000 workers. Its core focus areas included fabric production, garment manufacturing, and retail operations.
Today, David Whitehead specializes in high-quality shirting fabric and basic clothing items like shirts, trousers, shorts, and t-shirts. The company has a diverse manufacturing capability that covers everything from ginning, spinning, weaving, dyeing and finishing to cutting and sewing.
Major brands produced by David Whitehead include Executive Shirtings, Warrior Wear, and David Whitehead Apparel. The company supplies its products to large South African clothing retailers and has a distribution network across the Southern African region.
Despite facing challenges in recent years due to a difficult operating environment, David Whitehead continues to be one of Zimbabwe’s largest integrated textile and clothing firms. The company is recognized for its commitment to maintaining international quality standards and for pioneering various innovations in the local textiles sector.
Bata Shoe Company
Bata Shoe Company has earned its place as one of the most prominent clothing and footwear manufacturers in Zimbabwe. Originally founded in 1894 in Czechoslovakia, Bata opened its first production facility in Gweru, Zimbabwe in 1946.
Over the past seven decades, Bata Zimbabwe has emerged as the country’s leading shoe producer. The company operates three manufacturing sites in Gweru, Kwekwe, and Bulawayo. Combined, these factories have an installed capacity to produce over 3 million pairs of shoes annually.
The range of footwear manufactured by Bata includes dress shoes, casual shoes, school shoes, work boots as well as sandals and slippers. The company uses leather, PVC, canvas and textile materials sourced both locally and internationally.
Bata Shoe Company has also diversified into clothing production over the years. The company manufactures shirts, t-shirts, shorts, trousers, uniforms, and other garments. Bata’s apparel division focuses on basics and workwear items.
Distribution and sales are carried out through Bata’s extensive retail network in Zimbabwe. This includes over 60 company-owned Bata stores located in towns and cities across the country. Bata’s brand name, wide product range and national footprint has made it popular among Zimbabwean consumers.
Beyond domestic sales, Bata Zimbabwe exports its products regionally to Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique. The company is recognized globally for maintaining high quality standards. Bata’s consistent production and timely delivery has enabled it to supply large regional retailers as well as wholesalers, schools and other institutions.
Based in Kwekwe, Lancashire Steel has emerged as one of the country’s leading manufacturers of zippers, buttons and other garment trimmings. The company has operated in Zimbabwe for over 60 years.
Lancashire Steel was founded in 1959 as a subsidiary of Stewarts & Lloyds, a British engineering conglomerate. The company set up a fasteners factory in Kwekwe to produce zippers, press studs, hooks, eyes, and other textile trimmings to meet the needs of Zimbabwe’s clothing sector.
Over the decades, Lancashire Steel has expanded its production machinery and built an extensive distribution network across the region. Today, the company is the largest manufacturer of zippers and garment trimmings in Zimbabwe.
The major products include metal zippers made from brass, nickel and aluminium, plastic zippers, buttons crafted from different materials, press studs, buckles, rivets and other fastening components. Lancashire Steel has the capacity to produce over 5 million metres of zippers and 6 million buttons per month.
A key competitive advantage is the company’s in-house tooling and dyeing facilities which enable flexibility in developing customized products. Lancashire Steel exports over 75% of its fasteners and trimmings to the clothing manufacturing industries in South Africa, Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique.
By leveraging long-standing expertise in garment trimmings production, Lancashire Steel has established itself as a vital supplier to clothing producers across Sub-Saharan Africa. Continued investment in machinery upgrades has enabled the company to maintain quality standards and respond to customer requirements.
Cone Textiles has been a significant player in Zimbabwe’s textile industry since the company set up operations in Bulawayo in 1956. It was founded as a subsidiary of Cone Mills Corporation, one of the largest textile firms in the United States.
The company established a major plant to manufacture cotton fabrics and yarn. Cone Textiles focused on producing high-quality denim fabrics as its main specialty. The company supplied locally-made denim to clothing factories across Zimbabwe and the region.
By the 1990s, Cone Textiles had emerged as the country’s top denim producer with the capacity to manufacture over 12 million metres of fabric annually. Its denim products were exported to South Africa, Zambia, Malawi and Europe.
Cone Textiles implemented new processing technologies over the years to improve its denim quality and production volumes. Some key innovations included introducing synthetic indigo dyeing and utilizing sandblasting techniques to give denim a worn look.
However, the company was forced to cease operations in 2015 due to a challenging economic climate and shortage of cotton. But Cone Textiles left a legacy as a pioneering denim manufacturer whose fabrics were sought after by designers across Southern Africa.
At its peak, the company employed over 2,000 workers at its denim mill in Bulawayo. Cone Textiles’ long-running contribution helped establish Zimbabwe as a regional leader in textile manufacturing.
Textile Mills (Private) Limited
Textile Mills (Private) Limited has grown to become one of the top clothing producers in Zimbabwe. The company has its roots in a textile mill set up in Chegutu in 1958 to make blanket and curtain fabrics.
Over the next few decades, Textile Mills expanded into garment manufacturing through acquisitions of clothing factories in Kadoma and Harare. By the 1990s, it had emerged as one of the country’s largest integrated textile firms.
Today, Textile Mills specializes in high-volume production of basic clothing items like shirts, t-shirts, shorts, trousers, skirts and uniforms. The company manufactures over 1 million garments per year which are sold in the domestic market.
Major in-house brands include Bob’N Joe, UBs, and XQS Casual Wear. The company also produces clothing for leading retailers under their private labels. Textile Mills manufactures fabrics at its Chegutu mill to support its apparel production.
The company provides direct employment to over 800 workers across its manufacturing facilities countrywide. As one of the pioneers in Zimbabwe’s post-independence clothing industry, Textile Mills has played an important role in sector development.
Despite economic hardships, the company continues upgrading its technology and skills base to remain competitive. Through consistent quality and reasonable pricing, Textile Mills has carved a niche supplying basic garments and uniforms in the Zimbabwean market.
Modzone Fashion House
Founded in 2012, Modzone Fashion House is one of the emerging players in Zimbabwe’s clothing sector. The company has established itself as a leading designer, manufacturer and retailer of contemporary fashion clothing.
Modzone was started by Bongiwe Walaza who named it after the popular 1960s fashion trend “mod”. She sought to develop an proudly African fashion brand that competed with international labels.
The company has a manufacturing unit in Harare where it produces its women’s wear collections. Modzone focuses on high quality dresses, skirts, blouses, pants and suits made from fabrics like chiffon, lace, denim and African print.
Signature design elements include bold prints, bright colors, trendy silhouettes and embellishments like embroidery and beadwork. The company works with expert local craftspeople specialized in these finishing techniques.
Under the brand names Modzone Collection and Ella Fashion House, the company releases multiple seasonal ranges annually. These are retailed through its stores in Harare and Victoria Falls Airport. Modzone also supplies other clothing retailers across Zimbabwe.
The brand has gained recognition for its trendsetting designs which fuse African and Western influences. Through continued innovation in its manufacturing and retail operations, Modzone aims to grow into a leading Pan-African fashion house.
Operating from Harare, Prestige Clothing has become one of the largest apparel producers in Zimbabwe. The company was founded in 1994 and began by manufacturing uniforms.
Over the years, Prestige expanded into making a wide variety of garments including shirts, t-shirts, shorts, trousers, skirts, jackets, and underwear. The company supplies its clothing to large Zimbabwean retailers, chain stores, government institutions, NGOs and other corporates.
Prestige Clothing operates a large manufacturing facility housing over 500 sewing machines. The plant has an installed capacity to produce around 120,000 garments per month. The company employs over 200 workers in its production operations.
Raw materials like fabric, buttons, zips and trims are sourced locally as well as imported. Prestige maintains rigorous quality control and can handle large-scale orders at competitive rates.
A key factor in the company’s growth is the emphasis on investing in the latest machinery coupled with regular skills upgrading for machine operators. This has enabled Prestige to remain responsive to evolving trends and customer requirements.
Through delivering consistent quality, reasonable pricing and timely fulfillment of orders, Prestige has established itself as a reliable high-volume garment producer. The company represents a steady and significant contributor to Zimbabwe’s clothing manufacturing sector.
Impala Fashions has carved a niche as one of Zimbabwe’s leading clothing manufacturers specializing in workwear garments. The company was formed in 1982 in Bulawayo as a joint venture between Zimbabwean and South African partners.
Impala Fashions began manufacturing overalls, safety wear, uniforms, and other work apparel used in industrial settings. Over the years, the company has expanded its production capacity significantly through upgrades in technology.
Today, Impala operates two garment factories in Bulawayo which employ over 500 people. The company also set up vertical production units to manufacture its own trims, labels and garment bags. This has enhanced cost efficiencies.
Impala produces over 1.5 million workwear garments annually in diverse fabrics including cotton twill, polyester cotton, denim and khaki. The range covers boiler suits, industrial shirts & trousers, security uniforms, traffic safety wear and corporate workwear.
A major portion of Impala’s output is exported to South Africa. The company also supplies large corporate clients and retailers across Zimbabwe. Strict quality control and ethical manufacturing practices have helped Impala gain a strong reputation in the workwear segment.
Drawing on its technical expertise built over decades, Impala Fashions continues to be one of the best-known names in Zimbabwe for quality, durability and value in work-related garments.
Zimbabwe’s clothing manufacturing sector has been shaped by the work of pioneering companies that have endured over generations. The firms profiled in this article represent leading names carrying on this rich legacy today.
From long-established businesses like David Whitehead and Bata to younger players like Modzone Fashion House, these manufacturers demonstrate the diversity, skills and resilience of the country’s textile and apparel industry. Companies producing high-fashion garments co-exist with those focused on uniforms and basic wear.
Despite facing challenges in recent times, Zimbabwe’s top clothing producers continue investing and innovating. Their contributions in terms of employment, exports and retail enable Zimbabwe to maintain a strong position in regional apparel manufacturing.
The future holds opportunities for greater value-addition and penetration of new markets. With their solid foundations, prime capabilities and readiness to adapt to global shifts, Zimbabwe’s top clothing manufacturers are well-poised to play a key role in the industry’s next phase of evolution.