A HEAVY-duty worksuit that is emblazoned with the signature of President Robert Mugabe is the latest fashion craze in Zimbabwe – and the designers claim orders are flooding in from outside the country.
Designers James Pande and Herbert Huruba say young Zimbabweans can’t get enough of their worksuits – even wearing them to football matches.
“What surprised us was the overwhelming orders and interest of people in the [suits],” said Huruba, of local fashion house Hovhorosi $tyle.
“Currently we are seeking to fulfil an order we received from Scotland showing that we have gone platinum since our inception in the fashion industry,” he told the Standard newspaper. It was not immediately clear which Scottish company has placed the order.
Available in green, yellow, orange, red and white, the one-piece worksuits were originally designed for delegates attending a conference of Mugabe’s Zanu PF party last year and bear the 89-year-old president’s signature across the front.
At $30 each, the overalls are not cheap in a nation where many earn less than $300 a month. Fans can purchase a matching beret for $10. Promotional materials show models pairing the overalls with stilettos, knee-high boots and the dark glasses Mugabe favours.
Agents are selling them across the border in Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa, the designers claim.
They say the overalls will promote “solidarity and unity”, a catchphrase for Mr Mugabe’s dream of a one-party state.
But critics say they are being used to rebrand the 89 year-old leader ahead of elections this year – and warn that survivors of the last violent elections in 2008 may find them intimidating.
Youth militias dressed in not-dissimilar green uniforms rampaged through Zimbabwe’s rural areas after Mugabe lost the first round of voting in March 2008, attacking anyone suspected of supporting Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change party.
At least 200 opposition supporters were killed. Mugabe was forced to sign a coalition deal with Tsvangirai in September 2008.
Since then, the veteran leader has worked hard to endear himself to the urban youth, traditionally supporters of Tsvangirai.
Mugabe appeared in a rap video in 2010, using – albeit with unease – a street greeting well-known to teenagers. House of Gushungo, a rival fashion label, also uses the president’s signature on its designs.
Commentators warn despite his violent past, Mugabe may win the elections on the back of growing disenchantment with his rival Tsvangirai, who has served as prime minister in the coalition government.