Nelson Mandela’s 46664 fashion line goes global

Madiba-inspired fashion label to hit international markets on Nelson Mandela Day

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela:  philanthropist, visionary, philosopher, winner of a Nobel Peace Prize and…trend-setter?

Even in his nineties, Madiba is continuing to inspire change, and most recently, a proudly South African fashion branch, the 46664 fashion line, has dedicated itself to celebrating his life and philosophies through clothing.

Based loosely on the Afrocentric ensembles Mandela donned during his political reign, the apparel range has taken the traditional elements of African culture and mixed it with high fashion design.

What’s more, with links to the 46664 non-profit organisation aimed at taking forward Nelson Mandela's global HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention campaign, the 46664 fashion line is also about making positive change.

After only a short time on the market, it is an internationally acclaimed brand and social entity, and a noteworthy contender in the competitive arena of fashion.

The fashion label appeals to a broad range of people, but is especially attractive to those concerned with looking good and being socially responsible.

Now, this year on Nelson Mandela Day (18 July 2012), a day on which we dedicate ourselves to the upliftment of our communities, the 46664 fashion line is going global.

In celebration, we sat down to chat with CEO Wayne Bebb of Brand ID, the man who has overseen the development and rollout of the 46664 fashion line.

CapeTownMagazine: Where did the concept for the 46664 fashion line come from, and when was it first brought to life?

Wayne: The inspiration behind the 46664 label comes from Nelson Mandela’s prisoner number and year of imprisonment: Madiba was prisoner 466, and imprisoned in 1964 as a militant anti-apartheid activist.

Nelson Mandela took these painful numbers and transformed them into something positive: he set up the 46664 fund to protect his intellectual property, and to act as a vehicle to address the HIV/AIDS endemic in South Africa.

Two and a half years ago, the non-profit organisation morphed into a fashion brand. What we wanted to achieve was a commercial venture that could continue to fund Madiba’s 46664 projects in a sustainable way. 

The next step was to ensure that the fashion brand could compete on the international market, based on the principles of good quality and being on-trend.

The 46664 fashion brand was officially launched at the end of August 2011.

CapeTownMagazine: What is your fashion philosophy?

Wayne: If you think about South Africa, you think of its vibrant colours and diverse cultures. The 46664 initiative is passionate about local talent, and has tried to create a brand that reflects the authenticity of our country and translates it into something that is on par with first world trend.

CapeTownMagazine: As 46664 is a locally-inspired brand, are you emphasizing local production?

When we started the brand in South Africa the volumes were quite small, and in order to make the clothes cost effective here, we had to outsource a percentage of the production to offshore producers. As a result, only 65% of the fashion products are currently produced in South Africa. As the brand continues to grow, however, we will persist in our efforts to expand into the local clothing and textile industry.

CapeTownMagazine: Why have you decided to go global with the 46664 fashion line?

Wayne: From the outset we wanted to create a global brand that originated in Africa. The brand rapidly sparked international attention and surprised quite a lot of people who thought that it was just going to consist of a range of charitable t-shirts. In reality, it reflected high fashion with a South African twist while still being socially conscious.

I have been working closely with a lot of countries who want to bring the brand to their nation. On Nelson Mandela day, our 46664 fashion brand will be launched in the US and Canada. We have also succeeded in signing an agreement to have the brand launched in Brazil, Portugal, Angola and Mozambique. Negotiations are currently underway with a potential EU partner, which could launch the brand in over 10 European countries.

CapeTownMagazine: Do you think the fashion label will do well overseas?

Wayne: We have received multiple requests through our online store for the product, and have also fielded many enquiries about where around the world consumers can purchase our brand. It is our time to showcase our incredible talent from this country.

Furthermore, the Hollywood humanitarian community and the US music industry have demonstrated long-standing, active support for the 46664 Foundation, and I believe the fashion brand will be an extension of this relationship.

CapeTownMagazine: The primary focus of the fashion line is to facilitate and finance projects started by the 46664 foundation, how is the label achieving this objective?

Wayne: A material percentage of our sales goes to the Nelson Mandela Foundation to finance key sustainable projects of integrity. A full 7% of our total sales goes towards charitable projects, not just 7% of profit. The rest of the money is utilised to ensure the longevity of the company; making sure it won’t be a company that is here the one day, and gone the next.

CapeTownMagazine: Otherwise, does the brand support any local charities?

Wayne: Yes, our first project is the building, funding, stocking and maintenance of three libraries at Parkdene Primary in Eikenfontein (Western Cape), Thandabantu Senior Primary in the Eastern Cape and Mandlamasha Community Primary in KZN. This initiative supports Mr. Mandela’s love for children and the fight to address literacy in the country. We are providing incredible learning centres for kids, and will encourage interactions that allow kids an opportunity to learn and absorb knowledge. This first community project ties in with our Spring 2012 campaign, which focuses on Mr. Mandela as the Reader, the Writer, the Listener.

We are also very proud to host a developmental intern programme where up and coming black designers can exercise their creativity in the name of the brand. Our eager designers draw inspiration from Nelson Mandela’s personal archives, a collection that was accumulated during his years of imprisonment, to create one-of-a-kind, statement t-shirts.

CapeTownMagazine: Where can you buy the 46664 fashion line?

Wayne: We have more than 100 independent retailers across the country that stock our brand, as well as Stuttafords in South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. We also have an online 46664 fashion store (www.46664fashion.com) for trading in South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland and several other territories.

Once the fashion line is launched globally, stock in the US and Canada will only be available online.

CapeTownMagazine: Are you planning to showcase your designs again at this year’s Cape Town Fashion Week?

Wayne: We had tremendous success at last year’s SA fashion week. With the up and coming international roll-out of the brand, however, all our resources are focused on ensuring a smooth and successful transition. This leaves us with little time for the fashion week in South Africa this year, but we hope to be back next year.

CapeTownMagazine: What does the future hold for the brand?

Wayne:  First and foremost we would like to continue growing and expanding our vision as the first socially conscious global brand that has started in South Africa. We are also happy to report that if everything goes smoothly with the roll-out of the brand in the US, we hope to be showcasing the collection this September at the New York fashion week.

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Look out for the hand label on all the 46664 products; it’s symbolic of Mr Mandela’s retirement speech in Hyde Park in London that started Nelson Mandela Day. In the speech he told the nation that ‘the future is now in your hands.’

By Adri de Kock 

Read more on what you can do to uplift your community this Mandela Day. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, join our Google+ circle and check out our Pinterest boards for updates.

 

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