From an infamous prison number to a modish clothing brand, that’s the story of 46664.
The number that identified Nelson Mandela on Robben Island, where the apartheid government jailed him for his political activities, is now a name of a new trendy clothing line. The range made its debut on South African shelves on 24 August 2011.
Now available in 15 Stuttafords stores across the country, 46664 Apparel is also on sale in Namibia and Botswana. It’s set to be marketed abroad in 2012.
The first batch of the collection includes men’s and women’s clothes, which were all designed and manufactured in South Africa.
The striking men’s golf shirts – selling for between R399 (US$56) and R599 ($83.41) – are tipped to rapidly gain popularity among the young and stylish, while the traditional seshoeshoe shirts bring a vintage African feel to the range.
46664 Apparel men’s jeans and chinos are also on sale. The women’s range comprises elegant dresses and skirts, as well as stylish blouses.
The summer collection is just a taste of what the brand will offer, which, according to Stuttafords’ executive chairperson Hilton Mer, is a “combination of fashion and quality”.
46664 went from a degrading prison number to one that “celebrates beauty”, pointed out Tokyo Sexwale, a Cabinet minister who’s also a Nelson Mandela Foundation trustee.
Sexwale spent 15 years on Robben Island alongside other political prisoners including Mandela.
“Mandela was branded in jail, but look what happened,” Sexwale added. “46664 now celebrates the victory of good over evil.”
The number – pronounced four, double six, six, four – is also used as the name for a global HIV/Aids awareness and prevention campaign.
Funds for Mandela Foundation
Royalties from 46664 Apparel sales will go to the Mandela Foundation, which came up with the idea of a clothing range as means to make a sustainable income.
Seven percent of the profit made from sales will go to the NGO, according to Brand ID CEO Wayne Bebb. As the brand develops, royalties will grow to 9%, he said.
Brand ID, the group licensed to produce the line, promised to maintain transparency in their allocation of funds to the Mandela Foundation.
“For the next season we’ll be able to say this is what we donated to the foundation, and this is what they’ve done with the funds,” said Bebb.
Former Miss South Africa Jo-Ann Strauss added: “It’s unlike any other (clothing brand) produced in South Africa, because the proceeds ensure that the Mandela Foundation continues to generate an income.”
Local designers aboard
Three of South Africa’s top designers were roped in to ensure the 46664 range appeals to consumers. The renowned Craig Native is entrusted with designing the brand’s T-shirts.
Chris Vogelpoel – also highly rated – designs the 46664 male denims, while Barbara Tosalli conceptualises the women’s range.
“They’ve all been leading designers in South Africa for many years,” said Mer.
The clothes are manufactured in four factories in South Africa – two in the Western Cape and two in KwaZulu-Natal. Up to 1 500 people are employed in the factories two of which owned by Seardel, one of the country’s largest clothing and textile manufacturers.
“We’ll continue to grow the production sites in South Africa and create more jobs,” said Bebb.
The new line will showcase the crème de la crème of South African talent to the world, said Sexwale.
“We’re going to spread the brand and let people see the quality that we have in South Africa,” he added.