Fashion designer Rich Mnisi is one of South Africa’s celebrated talents in the fashion industry. Launching his brand “Oath” soon after being announced as one of the winners of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Joburg AFI Fastrack in 2014, Mnisi may be a newcomer to this competitive industry, but his brand is well-respected – at home, in Africa and overseas. I speak to him about his journey and SS’17 collection.
What sparked your interest in fashion? My whole family has some sort of interest in fashion, particularly my sister. Watching her prepare to go out was absolutely incredible. She’d take time to do her hair, make-up and style her look, and if she didn’t like something about the way she looked she would just alter the clothing on the spot.
“The proportions and moods I explore come from my mother and the need to push the envelope comes from my sister”
What made you take fashion more seriously and make a career out of it? It was when I learned about Lisof Fashion School and what it had to offer. I never saw fashion as a viable career option, it always felt so glamorous and bizarre. But exploring the business side of it was enlightening.
How has your work evolved since you started your own label? I can’t be specific as it has been a gradual growth. The brand is gradually growing into its own attitude and style. Does your approach differ when designing menswear compared to womenswear? No, I approach them the same way.Usually something intended for a man ends up on a woman and vice versa.
What is your creative process? Music is at the beginning of it all. I let the music I listen to lead the way – define the proportions, mood and colours. Then link all of that with the inspiration of the collection.
How do influences from outside South Africa find their way into your work? It’s the time I’m in, information is everywhere. My work is conversation driven. All the conversations I have with my friends and myself influence my work.
What are you fascinated by at the moment and how does it feed into your work? The beauty in blackness. I almost apply a Solange Knowles: for us by us approach.
Do you have a specific research process when you start a new collection? Not necessarily, it needs to come naturally. I don’t start a new collection unless I know what I’m trying to say through it.
“The research process comes with the Reflecting the times, topic at hand and they can’t all be tackled the same”
What is the biggest lesson that you have learned since you started your company? That I’ll never stop learning. It’s not as easy as it looks. It’s a very complex industry; you almost need to stop thinking about it too hard to make the best decisions.
“The support for young designers could definitely be better, but it’s also on the young designers to educate themselves and find a means to communicate their ideas”
I’ve also had to learn about the business. Sometimes creative meets corporate and the two need to work together. I still go 60 percent creative and 40 percent corporate, for my sanity.
How would you describe your design aesthetic? It’s a reflection of time, and it develops as time develops. Do you feel there’s significant interest in young designers? Definitely, I think young designers stripped fashion of its glamour and tackled it in an honest way.
Designer Rich Mnisi
Who inspires you the most in fashion? My peers: Orange Culture, Tzar, Lukhanyo Mdingi, Nicholas Coutts, Jenevieve Lyons, Nao Serati, Thebe Magugu, Selfie, Young & Lazy, Tsepo Tsotetsi, AKEDO. Describe the person you have in mind when you design? A curious mind, a fashion enthusiast, a traveller.
What’s your motto? The philosophy stems from the need to remind people of the importance of expression and not feeling lost in a world of globalisation and trends, but to use this more exposed world as your motivation to live fully.
“It’s about being unapologetic about your stance and knowing that it may never be accepted by many, but as long as you do it well it will translate”
What’s next? Our A/W 17 Collection
Connect with me on Twitter and Instagram @Nontando58
This piece was first published in the Cape Argus on November 30 2016