*The Nelson Mandela Foundation on Tuesday announced it is launching an international clothing line it says makes wearers look good on the outside — and feel good inside.
Profits from Mandela’s project will help sustain the foundation’s charitable gifts, while boosting South Africa’s troubled textile and clothing industry, according to the AP.
With the launch, the foundation joined a small but growing club of socially conscious clothing labels, such as Edun, a line founded by Bono and his wife in an effort to bring a steady, sustainable manufacturing industry to Africa.
The 46664 Apparel line, to debut in South Africa in August, features brightly colored men’s sportswear and intricately patterned, African-influenced women’s wear, all designed by Seardel, South Africa’s biggest textile and clothing manufacturer.
The line is named after Mandela’s prisoner number at the infamous Robben Island Prison, where he was the 466th prisoner in 1964. The anti-apartheid icon spent 27 years in prisons before becoming South Africa’s first black president in 1994.
“You are not just investing in a piece of apparel … you also are investing in a plan that will continue to spread that humanitarian legacy” of Mandela, said foundation board member Achmat Dangor.
He said the 46664 campaign has evolved since its start to raise global awareness and prevention of HIV and AIDS to “confronting and inspiring action to address the broader social injustices in our society.”
But as with all fashion, the line is not wholly without controversy. When the brand is launched in South Africa in August, a T-shirt will cost about 180 rand ($26). A man’s collared shirt runs about 600 rand ($86) — prices prohibitive for the majority in South Africa, where the minimum wage for a farm worker is R1,300 (less than $200).
The clothing will be sold at its own store, to be opened August in downtown Johannesburg, as well as at branches of upmarket Stuttafords department store. It also will be available online, for sale internationally.
Next year, Dangor said, the line will launch internationally, probably in Britain and the United States.
Dangor said Seardel paid the foundation a royalty of R1 million (about $143,000) and the foundation will get a share starting at 7 percent of annual turnover rising to 9 percent. The money will help the foundation’s sustainability, Dangor said, revealing that last year it had been forced to stop supporting projects in Ghana and Tanzania.
He said Mandela’s image would not appear on any of the clothing — a commercialization some find distasteful.
Mandela has fought law suits to prevent his name being used for commercial gain. His lawyers in 2005 confronted a clothing company that applied to register Mandela’s prison number, 46664, preventing them from doing so.
A more recent controversy erupted last year when Mandela’s family, including eldest daughter Makaziwe and grandson Mandla, launched House of Mandela wines. Many were outraged but Mandela gave the commercial project his blessing.