Madiba shirt-maker opens doors for aspiring fashion designers

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Sonwabile Ndamase. Picture: Jabu Kumalo
Sonwabile Ndamase. Picture: Jabu Kumalo

Sonwabile Ndamase, the man who dressed late former president Nelson Mandela, wants to give opportunities to the youth of Eastern Cape like Madiba gave to him. 

Ndamase – born and bred in Libode in the former Transkei – launched a learnership programme through the South African Fashion Designers Agency (SAFDA) for 150 youths with interest in fashion. 

The launch took place at East London’s Holiday Inn. Ndamase, wearing one of his trademark Madiba shirts, launched the programme which is the first of its kind in the province. 

Ndamase said this was a way of giving back to the community and continuing the legacy of the statesman. 

“This is very important to me. Part of it is to leave the legacy of Tata Mandela that he asked me to do. He asked me to plough back to the community within where I come from and make it a point I change people’s lives. 

“By wearing my shirt he did the same for me because before that nobody knew me. He opened up the markets for me. We managed to crack the industry and make it a point that things start to work for the betterment of an African child,” he said. 

Ndamase, founder and chairperson of SAFDA and the Vukani Fashion Awards, put up R250 000 of his own money to kickstart the learnership. 

He has now joined forces with Sector Education and Training Authority (Seta) who have set aside R3.5 million for the project towards the 150 learners who will also receive stipends for the 12 month learnership programme. 

Ndamase said he wants aspirant fashion designers and crafters who join the programme to use fashion as a communicator for social change, create sustainable enterprises and produce on-trend products. 

He said the project targeted physically-challenged individuals, fashion graduates, previously disadvantaged and unemployed youths. 

“The all-inclusive project intends to recruit 25 physically challenged youths to enrol as part of the programme,” Ndamase said.

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