Celebrating the unlikely style icon as she dies aged 81
Winnie Mandela, a pillar of a woman, has passed away aged 81 and we take a look at her and her unique and eclectic style.
South African anti-apartheid campaigner , her spokesman confirmed today.
Victor Dlamini said in a statement she died in a Johannesburg hospital after a long illness. The ex-wife of Nelson Mandela had been admitted to hospital in January with a kidney infection.
Her family is expected to speak later in the day.
Winnie and Mandela
The young activist met Nelson Mandela at a bus stop in Soweto when she was 22 years old in 1957 and the pair married a year later. They were married for 38 years in a romance that was spent largely apart with Nelson imprisoned for 27 years leaving Winnie to raise their two daughters and keep his political dream alive.
In 1990 the world watched when Nelson Mandela finally walked out of prison, hand in hand with Winnie.
But they separated just two years later and divorced in 1996 after a legal battle that revealed her affair with a young bodyguard and she went on to become embroiled in several controversies.
Her defiant style
Unlike many political figures who cultivate a style with neat boundaries to create a consistent public image, Winnie's wardrobe was keeps a riot of colour, style and references. From gracefully embellished gowns to chaotically coordinated separates.
Winnie's varied costumes recall key moments in her own personal story, a unique one that spans from freedom fighter to first lady. And they reflect the momentous changes South Africa has experienced in her lifetime.
Her refusal to be anything other than a proud and defiant African woman is utterly inspiring. From her jewellery to her accessories and clothing, Winnie always found a way to work in an element of a country and culture that she loved, fought for and protected till her dying day.
Winnie influenced Mandela's style
Winnie was responsible for introducing Mandela himself to the man who became responsible for his signature style.
Sonwabile Ndamase, who heads up Vukani Fashions, designed for Mandela. He had been designing for Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and was close to the family before Mandela was released from prison.
“When Mandela was released, I was introduced to him by Winnie,” said Ndamase. “He asked me to design something for him. I didn’t come up with the shirt automatically though. I set about creating an array of suits and other kinds of more ‘statesman-like’ attire for him. The second time I met him I was informed of his health. Tata’s lung illness meant I would have to design something that was not too heavy, yet still dignified, that he could wear in formal meetings at top government level. I then designed a shirt made from limited edition African-inspired prints to be worn over slacks, something stylish without being stifling. Madiba shirts are never casual – they are always buttoned to the top and well pressed."
Booyzen said Mandela understood the importance of fashion. She remembered Mandela at the Frock and Roll fund-raiser for the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund in Cape Town in 1998 which featured 21 top models including Naomi Campbell, Christie Turlington, Alek Wek and Mia Farrow.
undefined, often referred to Nelson Mandela as her 'grandfather' and the two developed a heart-warming relationship based on their mutual love of fashion, philanthropy and activism.
Winnie was a warrior of a woman. Unapologetically defiant and that was clear, not just in her ways but in her style. Her effect on the world and on a nation will be her legacy and she will be surely missed.
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