Fashion is no stranger to political leanings, but a new fashion line out of Zimbabwe has everyone reconsidering the power of clothing. Zimbabwean fashion line House of Gushungo is celebrating all things Robert Mugabe, the controversial African president. The line, named after Mugabe’s clan, features T-shirts, caps, and berets all somewhat gaudily emblazoned with a silver-studded presidential signature. While the clothes are not the most fashion-forward items (we’re being kind), it’s the message behind them that has human-rights campaigners worried.
Seen as a Marxist dictator by some and a liberation hero by others, Mugabe’s 20-odd year presidential run has been tainted by claims of election rigging and intimidation. And with plans for an election next year, there is growing suspicion that the line is a desperate propaganda tactic to gain faltering support.
While Che Guevara T-shirts and Barack Obama “Hope” posters have become something of a norm, we’re a little worried about dictator-chic becoming a reality.
Styleite: “We believe in supporting your country’s fashion industry, but this circumstance has us wondering just how much doing that will cost Zimbabwe.” [Styleite]
Vogue Italia “While it’s long been commonplace for those with roots outside of the industry to enter the realm of fashion (from musicians to actors to socialites), dictators aren’t usually among them.” [Vogue Italia]
Rani Sheen, health and copy editor: “If it’s true that the Mugabe campaign is behind this label, then it’s taking the “street team”–type marketing tactics that so many brands have jumped on in recent years to a new level. Get your message across and make people pay for it! Fashion has obviously been political before—Katharine Hamnett’s slogan T-shirts come to mind—but as an obscured campaign tool it’s more than a bit worrying.”