Toppers catches the worm as other uniform manufacturers struggle to meet demand
Flora Fadzai Sibanda, Chronicle Reporter
WHILE most producers of school uniforms and other learning accessories in Bulawayo were burning the midnight oil to meet orders due to overwhelming demand, Toppers Uniforms, sent its workers on leave after making more than enough school wear to meet demand.
FOR the past 57 years Topper Uniforms has supplied Bulawayo and Masvingo with the best quality uniforms and gained popularity for their work. According to the management, the secret to their popularity and outstanding success is working ahead of time and living up to the proverb that an early bird catches the worm.
To prove this, at a time when most tailors are busy with their machines trying to beat the deadline as the opening of schools is slowly approaching, Toppers Uniforms’ factory arm is closed and the tailors are on holiday as they have made adequate uniforms to cater to their customers for the beginning of the year.
Established in 1965, Toppers caters for more than 3000 schools in Matabeleland. They import their fabric all the way from China on time to make sure that they don’t compromise on quality.
The Production Manager Gift Mazivanhanga said during this time of the year all the tailors are on holiday.
He said the company uses this chance to service all its machines and repair the ones that are now damaged.
“We take a break from mid-December to mid-January. This is the only break that we get at the production factory as we make our uniforms all year round. This means we do not get short of uniforms during the January rush and our tailors do not work overnight as a means of trying to beat the midnight deadline,” he said.
Gift said a normal day at the factory starts at 07:30am with all the tailors sitting at their stations. He said production then starts with a selection of the fabrics that are used.
“After selection, there is a group that cuts the pieces and makes markings. After that, a tailor takes the piece that they are working on and starts sewing. The rows that are in the factory are the different job allocations that everyone has to do. The first row might be for skirts only, the following for shorts, and so on. We also have a row that is specifically for the private schools because they have their own specific designs that they want,” said Gift.
He said they only employ the best tailors in the land.
“A child fresh from high school who has the knowledge of using the machines can come and apply and be hired. They will be put on probation and be taught a few things. If they improve their work, they stand a chance of being hired to be permanent workers,” Gift said.
A chief tailor at Toppers, Tracy Ndlovu said she has been working with the company for the past seven years and they have never had an overnight shift because of pressure.
She said they always work ahead of time to make sure they beat the deadline before it is even set.
“We have always worked like this since l first joined the company. When we come back for production we will start preparing for winter. Once winter starts, we are already safe and ready to start prepping for summer. This has helped us because we never run out of uniforms,” said Tracy.
Memory Ncube, another chief tailor, said they produce more than 1500 uniforms a day.
The managing director Mohammed Patel said Toppers Uniforms is a one-way stop shop for all parents as everything can be obtained from there. He said they recently introduced an all-leather school shoe that is now sold at their shops.
“Our biggest aim is to make the shopping experience of a parent to be very easy and convenient. We recently introduced a new affordable genuine leather shoe which has been a massive hit with parents. Parents are able to get everything under one roof instead of having to go all over town buying different items.
“Toppers services Bulawayo and Masvingo area for now. Branches across the Midlands region are set to be coming up in 2023 and we are very excited to be expanding to this new region as our customers have been pushing us to come there and are eagerly awaiting our arrival.
“Toppers has always aimed to be a one-stop uniform shop so we supply every product that a child needs in order to go to school. From the entire uniforms right down to the shoes and socks. We aim to make the school wear buying experience for the parent to be as easy as possible so that it’s stress free and parents are able to get everything under one roof instead of having to go all over town to buy different items,” Patel.