Behind The Launch of Nelson Mandela’s New Clothing Line

March 21, 2011  |  

By Brittany Hutson

The number 46664 was once synonymous with the prison number that anti-apartheid activist and former South African president Nelson Mandela was given when he was incarcerated for 18 years on Robben Island off of Cape Town, South Africa. Nearly three decades later, that same number will now represent an apparel line that seeks to become a global fashion brand.

The 46664 apparel line was introduced earlier this month by Mandela’s foundation of the same name, which was established in 2002 as a global HIV/AIDS awareness prevention campaign. Besides helping to sustain the foundation’s charitable gifts, profits will also assist in boosting South Africa’s troubled textile and clothing industry. Designed by Seardel, South Africa’s biggest textile and clothing manufacturer, the line will feature brightly colored men’s sportswear and intricately patterned, African-influenced women’s wear that will be interchangeable for the office or casual weekend wear.  At present, U.S. retail for a T-shirt will cost about $26 and a man’s collared shirt will cost about $86.

We spoke to Brand Identity, a newly formed division of Seardel and 46664’s design team, to find out more about the launch of South Africa’s new fashion brand.

Where did the idea for this clothing line come from?

In an ever-changing, at times unpredictable global economic climate, 46664 can no longer only depend on philanthropy to fund both its broad awareness raising as well as projects (like Nelson Mandela Day) that serve to take forward and imbibe the humanitarian legacy of Nelson Mandela. In its move towards sustainability and self-sufficiency, 46664 has partnered with carefully selected commercial and social profit entities – and, through a careful licensing process, created income streams that now allow it to be a fund-raising vehicle. The 46664 Apparel is part of this new, robust focus to advance 46664’s mandate.

What was the process for taking this concept and turning it into a reality?

46644 and Seardel have been in discussion around the 46664 Apparel for a year, specifically working on the terms and mandates of the license in a way to both serve 46664’s evolved mandate and the commercial necessities of a globally benchmarked apparel brand.

Was Nelson Mandela himself directly involved in the creation of the clothing line in any way?

Mr Mandela gave his prison number to 46664 and supports all projects undertaken by the campaign. He is not operationally involved in the 46664 Apparel.

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