Ernest Wolmarans
1 minute read
10 Dec 2013
6:00 am

His legacy is fitting, says Madiba shirt designer

Ernest Wolmarans

Famed fashion designer Sonwabile Ndamase, creator of the Madiba shirt, said yesterday the stateman's legacy will remain for years to come – and so will his instantly recognisable line of shirts.

Established fashion designer Sonwabile Ndamase poses for a photograph next to his Madiba shirt designs at Vukani Range Creations in Johannesburg, 11 December 2013. Picture:Nigel Sibanda

Ndamase, himself from the Eastern Cape, said he met the apartheid struggle icon’s ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in 1986, but that the meeting was strained, as claims of him being a fashion designer drew immediate scepticism.

“Times were tough back then. The perception was that the apartheid government would use any avenue possible to infiltrate the party,” said Ndamase.

Trust, however, was steadily built over time as Ndamase continued his own struggle to make it in the fashion industry.

It was through Madikizela-Mandela that he finally met the Nobel Laureate in the nineties.

“I was scared to meet him, but he broke the ice with typical Madiba Magic. He made me feel at ease because he knew people were scared of the legacy he had already built,” recalled Ndamase.

It was there, sitting around the lunch table with Madiba’s family, that Ndamase was given the job of creating what would become synonymous with one of the world’s most respected presidents.

“He wanted a unique design that was cool and comfortable, but would work in a boardroom as well as around the lunch table.”

Ndamase relished the challenge and the statesman soon had a plethora of his designs in his wardrobe. “Perhaps it was because he carried the shirts with such humility. He always stood firm; he was rooted.

“We will keep making Madiba shirts so people can carry Madiba’s spirit, not only in their look but in their own actions.”