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Mandela Clothing Range

Madiba Swagger

by Nolan Stevens / 28.04.2011

Word on the street is that everyone and their grandmother will be getting all “Madiba’d up” soon… Yes my friends Nelson Mandela’s 46664 charity has recently announced that it will be releasing a special clothing brand. You can now fashionably rock Tata’s global icon vibe.

I know what you’re thinking; there’s only one man alive who can get away with wearing those loud shirts. Those shirts only look “acceptable” when the old man wears them, right? Well let me put your mind at ease, I had a sneak peek at the range last week and it’s actually quite funky. And when you buy a 46664 fitted T-shirt, you are not just buying apparel; you are investing in a process that will help spread the legacy of Nelson Mandela by supporting the long-term sustainability 46664. At least that’s what the bigwigs behind the 46664 brand want us to believe. As the acclaimed writer and CEO of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, Achmat Dangor put it: “The charity needs reliable and sustainable income streams, something they believe the 46664 Apparel can significantly contribute to.” He said the NGO could no longer depend on philanthropy to create awareness and fund projects like Nelson Mandela Day. Props for being straight up and saying that they need the money. He then quickly added that buyers will be empowering young people in communities and creating, “a platform for global change”.

Mandela Clothing Range

But rocking Nelson Mandela’s revolutionary steez, as a consumer fashion brand, creates more questions than it answers. Like should South Africa’s greatest living icon, the figurehead of a principled revolutionary movement, be reduced to a clothing line? Fashion being one of the major instruments of rampant consumerism.

One of the first thoughts I had when I first got wind of this clothing range was, is this going to be like those Ché Guevara tees that are worn, mostly, by people who don’t even know who the man was, or what he stood for? Or is this gonna be like wearing a Biko tee and feeling like now you suddenly have some kind of black consciousness political street cred? Is this the beginning of the dumbing down of Madiba’s legacy, into consumable bite-sized chunks of merchandise. Are we going to see Madiba lunchboxes soon. Robben Island revolutionary trump cards, yo-yos?

Frankly, I told myself that if the gear isn’t dope, I ain’t wearing it. Finish ‘n klaar.

And it seems they’ve given these issues some thought and are attempting to traverse a kind of tight rope between commercialism and the preservation of Madiba’s image. Tata’s face will not appear on any of the clothing, instead his hand print will be used as the logo. The clothing range features modern, tailored business and casual pieces that fuse European design with an African flair. To my surprise, the gear is actually quite dope, but I wonder who will wear it? Are they going to pitch it to the elite or the masses? Most likely it’ll end up alongside other shmaltzy “rainbow nation products” donned like facepaint when the Bulls play rugby in Soweto. We’re not racist, we rock Madiba wear.

Mandela Clothing Range

But maybe I’m just being cynical. This clothing range is the only global brand that has a direct association with an organisation like 46664. And if it supports things like the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, then it can’t be that bad, regardless of how tasteless it seems. Secondly, it’s not nasty, cheesy shit. It’s a well thought through and professionally designed range that can hold its own internationally. So maybe, just maybe, this’ll help continue the good work of our most famous founding father.

The clothing range gets launched locally in August at a stand alone concept store in Johannesburg, and then it will be distributed through Stuttafords stores. Merchandise will also be available online.

Which kind of answers my earlier question about who this range is being pitched towards, the elite or the masses. Who do you think will be wearing this gear? Ekasi don’t regularly shop at Stuttafords? The 46664 organisation says it will be reasonably priced. I guess time will tell.

Nelson Mandela Clothing Range

*All images © Nolan Stevens.

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RESPONSES (13)
  1. Mpho says:

    + 1 on “if the gear isn’t dope, I ain’t wearing it”

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  2. Saan G says:

    MY NAME IS SAAN G. IM WONDERING HOW CAN ANY I JOIN THE NELSON MANDELA REVOLUTION MOVEMENT, MY STRONG EREA IS IN FASHION DESIGN. I AM CURRENTLY IN SCHOOL NOW, MY STUDIES IS FASHION DESIGN. I HAVE BEEN DOING ART ALL MY LIFE AND I WANT TO TAKE MY GOD GIFT AND MAKE SOMETHING OUT OF MY SELF. THERE IS NOTHING ELSE I WOULD DREAM OF BUT WORKING HARD FOR A RESPECTED LEADER AND MAN OF STRENGTH AND INTEGRITY. I WOULD LOVE AND ENJOY WORKING FOR FREE. I WILL SHARE IDEAS, FASHION FORECASTING, MARKETING TECHNIQUES, AND I WILL DO WHAT EVER IM TOLD IM A FAST LEARNER AND IF I DONT HAVE AN ANSWER I KNOW HOW TO FIND IT. PLEASE EMAIL ME AT GAMBLEBROWN@YAHOO.COM THANK YOU

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  3. neneketsang says:

    I strongly believe 1 its not about the fashion sense per say but about charity work, 2 I believe majority of supporters of this garments will be rich africans and tourist coz most kasi people don’t really shop at stutterfords nor do they actually afford to. If they want to cater for the mass majority they must all design affordable range that poor people like us can afford. 3 it must also be available to other retail shops that we usually go and shop at.

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  4. Max says:

    if us, well-off white kids, buy this shit – will we get black street cred?

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  5. Luz says:

    Should be intresting to see them navigate through the jungle that is the fashion world.

    Wierd though: “Hey we can’t run a charity profitably, so we’re gona try and run a fashion brand profitably”

    And to aim so high, so early?

    I just think it’ll be intresting that’s all !

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  6. raimondo says:

    Focus in life is the most important key to success. We must stick to what we love and know how to do. I hope that there is more behind this project than to make money because as anyone working in the clothing industry knows, there aint no money to be made here!!

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  7. teamWANDI says:

    Great article, clothing industry is cutthroat, and if the threads arent cool, then hell, we aint gonna wear em…#nohate,

    they should have made the clothes back in the day, as struggle clothes..now that would be dope.

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  8. polony says:

    Luz – “Hey we can’t run a charity profitably” I think the definition of a charity precludes making a profit…

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  9. Luz says:

    Ok Polony, you’re right, I see exactly what you mean.

    So if I make the same point but use the word “sustainably” will you get my point?

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  10. Piss artist. says:

    totally off the topic, just a piss-takers opinion but these clothes look like Mr price and Edgars have sexxed each other in the company of rich people wanting to brag with a famous name.

    How much do you reckon Mandela is charging to model these threads?

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  11. Beebee says:

    The label may sell

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  12. Anonymous says:

    Niceeeeeeee

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  13. deuce sizwe seetapele says:

    Hi! Where can i get or buy madiba clothing including T-shirts n those shirts Tata use to wear and how much do they cost

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