So, remember how a Nelson Mandela-themed clothing line, named after the former South African president's Robben Island prison ID, launched last year? Remember how weird that was? And how it was even weirder that Mandela was reportedly somehow even involved with the line?
Well, turns out he's not.
James Cecil, president of Cadence Communications, which represents the Nelson Mandela Foundation in North America, reached out to WWD to say that, actually, Nelson Mandela has nothing to do with 466/64.
"466/64 Fashion is making false claims that it is tied to Nelson Mandela — it is not, nor does it benefit him or his foundations," he wrote in an email to the trade paper. "They are deliberately misleading people in the fashion industry--the name ‘Nelson Mandela’ is not to be used in conjunction with any commercial products."
We went back to read the press material for the launch of 466/64, and the company never explicitly said that Mandela, the man, was involved. Instead, they said that the line was paying "homage to the great democracy leader." They did, however, insinuate that the 46664 Foundation, the not-for-profit organization who licensed the fashion label's name, was in part founded by the former South African President. The foundation's website, for instance, says "Mr Mandela gave his prison number to the organisation as a permanent reminder of the sacrifices he was prepared to make for a humanitarian and social justice cause he passionately believed in."
However Cecil says that 466/64 Fashion and 46664 Foundation "have no affiliation with Nelson Mandela, the Nelson Mandela Foundation, the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, nor the Mandela Rhodes Foundation."
He added that while the fashion label "cleverly use[s] [Mandela's] quotes in their advertising, [it] is not his line of clothing; he did not launch it, nor is he associated with it." Was 466/64 using Mandela's name and quotes in an attempt to make it look like the former South African president was somehow involved in the line? Or was it merely meant to honor the political leader?
A spokesperson for 466/64 Fashion said the former--though her response was rather nebulous. She explained that the 46664 trademark is managed by 46664 South Africa, a not-for-profit organization founded in 2002 to promote Nelson Mandela’s humanitarian legacy. But, it's not associated in anyway with Nelson Mandela or the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
"466/64 Fashion’s mandate from 46664 South Africa is to establish a global fashion brand that can create a sustainable income stream in order to fund various humanitarian projects," she told the trade. "46664 South Africa’s ethos is not to use Mr. Mandela’s name and image commercially. 466/64 Fashion is therefore not Mr. Mandela’s clothing brand or line and should not be reported as such." But, again, the foundation's own website would lead you to believe otherwise.
On 46664's About Page it says:
"In creating 46664 initially as a global HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention campaign, Mr Mandela realised that to reach the youth all over the world specifically, he needed to engage the support of the people who most appeal to them. This has been seen most visibly through the high-profile 46664 concerts of the past few years and the appointment of 46664 ambassadors."
But here's where things get really sticky: When WWD first wrote about the label back in September 2011, they quoted Mandela's former inmate and now business magnate, Tokyo Sexwale, who is also a trustee of the Nelson Mandela Foundation and Minister of Human Settlements in South Africa. At the time Sexwale said, "46664 Apparel is not just another brand, but a way of giving back to an organization that is intimately connected with the legacy of this country’s greatest leader." So, it would seem that at least some trustees of the Nelson Mandela Foundation were aware this clothing line was happening, and even supported it.
We've reached out to 466/64 and 46664 Foundation and are waiting to hear back.
What do you make of this mess?
Update: Wow. How's this for confusing. A spokesperson from 46664 sent us a statement yesterday saying that the Nelson Mandela Foundation is involved in their organization.
"We have such an authentic fashion story to tell with this amazing brand which is rooted in South Africa's vibrant, colorful culture and lifestyle cache as our well of inspiration," Erin Patton, Chief Executive Officer of Company b, exclusive license holder for 466/64 Fashion in North America, wrote in an email. "We are staunchly committed to ethical fashion as our brand ethos and look forward to bringing new energy, excitement and social impact to the retail channel in the US and Canada. The initial response from retailers and the fashion community has been overwhelmingly positive."
Patton also attached a document presented on Nelson Mandela Foundation letterhead stating they had licensed '46664' to the 46664 South Africa in 2011, and that since then they've operated as a separate organization.
So what the heck was James Cecil, who supposedly represents the Nelson Mandela Foundation, saying? We reached out to Cecil, but he declined to comment. Patton told WWD this morning, "I have no clue [why Cecil gave those statements.] The foundation has confirmed the relationship."
Cecil responded, via the trade, "No matter what the policy is, Nelson Mandela’s name is not to be used for commercial purposes."
Well then, we guess that clears that up.