Rich Mnisi: Dressing the world’s A-listers

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Thando Mnkandhla

Windhoek - South African designer Rich Mnisi - who has dressed fashion trendsetters like Beyoncé and Ciara - says he tries to find his great grandmother in his designer threads.

“I grew up with all these incredible family stories about my great grandmother and the woman she was, and although I never knew her, the stories about her and my understanding of who she was can be found in my clothing,” he discloses.

Though just 27-years-old, his creations have hit runways on at least three continents, at heart he remains an African boy who is just trying to tell a story.

"I love design and all creative forms and fashion gives one the ability to provide others with tools to enhance the daily expressions and storytelling,” he told Africa is Nowmagazine. 

"I think for us telling stories about our heritage through our work isn't a choice, it's a necessity. Without me telling my story, the truth will never be known."

Born in Johannesburg, Mnisi graduated from the prestigious Leaders in the Science of Fashion with a BA in Fashion Design and Business Management in 2014.

That same year he founded Oath Studio, which gave birth to his eponymous brand. 

Described as harbouring a global view catering for an aspirational market, the brand explores the unique intersection of African heritage and modern pop culture.

Mbudzi has had the critics purring, with some calling it a breath of fresh air for the fashion industry, while others say the designs champion risk taking and boundless creativity.

The young designer’s daring approaches make his work easily recognisable, and since the launch of Xingelengele, his first trans-seasonal collection, the brand has designed five more collections at two per year.

The collections have been showcased in South Africa, Nigeria, Russia and Germany, in addition to gracing runways worldwide.

Donned by South African A-listers like  by Bonang Matheba, Boity, Maps Maponyane and Springboks captain Siya Kolisi; the label also dressed Beyoncé when she was in South Africa for the 2018 Global Citizen's Concert. British model Naomi Campbell has looked riveting in it and Ciara had a dress designed for her for the “Freak Me” video.

Big brands like Coca-Cola and Johnnie Walker have caught onto the hype, too..

Mnisi has won many accolades, including the African Fashion International Young Designer of the Year in 2014 and the 2019 Emerging Designer of the Year at the Essence's inaugural Best in Black Fashion Awards.

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