Update: This story has been updated with statements from the Nelson Mandela Foundation and Company B, which holds the license for 466/64 Fashion in North America — click here for our update.
Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison, many of them wearing the ID number 466/64 on Robben Island, which is not far from Cape Town, South Africa. Along the way, he became a symbol for democracy and the anti-apartheid movement, and is now upheld worldwide as an elder statesman.
That prison ID number, though, has ended up sinking Mandela into the world of crass commercialism. 466/64 Fashion is a relatively new fashion line (it just launched in the U.S. on July 18th — Mandela's 94th birthday) that had sold itself as either being overseen by Mandela or at least involving him along with claiming that it would give some of its proceeds to a Mandela charity (see its Facebook banner, above).
The word from Mandela's reps, however, is that he has nothing to do with any of it — and did not spend 27 years in jail for a fashion label.
"466/64 Fashion is making false claims that it is tied to Nelson Mandela,” a spokesperson for the Nelson Mandela Foundation stated, according to WWD via Huffington Post and Jezebel. “It is not, nor does it benefit him or his foundations. They are deliberately misleading people in the fashion industry — the name ‘Nelson Mandela' is not to be used in conjunction with any commercial products. They cleverly use his quotes in their advertising, but this is not his line of clothing; he did not launch it, nor is he associated with it."
This, however, is a change from past press reports, which had Mandela and 466/64 working together. And the fashion line, which has been touting its ties to Mandela since launching in South Africa since Aug. 2011, is now stating:
"46664 South Africa has its own board of directors and is a separate entity to the Nelson Mandela Foundation. 46664 South Africa has officially licensed 466/64 Fashion. 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. 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."
Its website today still references the "iconic inspiration" ... for its "latest womenswear looks":