FORMER president Nelson Mandela’s signature shirts have been flying off the shelves since the elderly statesman was hospitalised.
Sonwabile Ndamase, the creator of the famous Madiba shirt, said he has also been inundated by companies wanting to buy the shirts to commemorate Mandela’s birthday next month.
The Presidency announced on Sunday that Mandela’s condition had “become critical”.
He is suffering from a recurring respiratory infection and has been receiving treatment at the Mediclinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria since June 8.
Mandela has been hospitalised four times since December, causing anxiety worldwide.
“The sales of the Madiba shirt have escalated since he was hospitalised,” said Ndamase. “Just now I heard about Americans who came to buy about 12 Madiba shirts.
“A number of companies also are buying the Madiba shirt in preparation for his birthday, they want their staff dressed in the shirts.
“We are having a lot of enquiries, some are taking anything that symbolises the man. I guess that is another way for them to empathise with the situation.”
Ndamase said the shirts cost R850 each and that there are limited editions of the shirt. He designed the shirt in the 90s but when Mandela took a liking to the colourful design Nadamase became world famous.
The designer’s memories of his interactions with the ailing icon are peppered with excitement and surprises.
“My interaction with utata [father] has been a very daunting one and exciting because through him I have managed to travel the world,” he said.
“It has also created opportunities for me to lend my hand to the young and upcoming designers. His legacy endorsed my dream of making it a point that fashion in this country moves beyond mere glitz and glamour.”
Mandela’s words when he received the shirt still echo in Ndamase’s ears today: “A Pondo who designs clothes? Let me see what you have designed for me?”
Ndamase said: “All I really wanted to do was honour and thank this great man for his magnanimous bravery by giving him his own style as way of saying thank you for what he had done for all of us.”