On this week’s African Voices Changemakers, CNN International’s Arit Okpo meets designer Rich Mnisi. His eponymous fashion label creates inclusive designs that celebrate his heritage and LGBTQ+ Pride.
Based in South Africa, Mnisi designed his brand to unearth Africa’s hidden treasures while also being youthful, contemporary, and modern. He speaks about the growing recognition for African voices, “So many African artists are starting to come out and be recognised for the amazing work that we do. We create from a place of authenticity and we’re rewriting all these stories about us. Africans’ stories about our families and our history and how culture should be perceived. There’s so much darkness that moulded us and I think now it’s time that the light comes out.”
The label has become known for luxury attire that defies gender stereotypes. While all of his collections are non-binary, Mnisi says his latest pays homage to Pride, “Pride is very important to me and the brand.
It’s something that we based the brand around and we’re doing it at the end of June to symbolise that Pride should be every single day.
So, we didn’t necessarily stick to Pride month, but we want to extend it throughout the year.”
Mnisi’s latest project is designing furniture. Just like his clothes, his furniture is true to his roots and designed to be thought-provoking, “When I started thinking of furniture from a functionality point of view, I think it was a very challenging project. Once I started looking at it from a different lens and thinking about it as dressing the body and working with human form it became such an easy task in a sense.”
Heritage is an important part of Mnisi’s designs, but it is also key to the company’s manufacturing. Mnisi tells Okpo why supporting local businesses is a central part of his process, “It’s so important to make sure that we lift up all the factories and our models and our local suppliers.
It just keeps all of us alive. One of the important things for us is to make sure that the world can also use us and see South Africa as a place to produce in because there’s so much great work that’s happening here.”
Through his clothing collections, and now furniture too, Mnisi weaves together African heritage and contemporary culture to represent Africa today. He sums up his idea of success, “My definition of success would be how many people you can touch with the work that you do and how much you can contribute to your community. It’s very beautiful knowing that, something as simple as creating or assisting someone or whatever, it can change someone’s life.”
‘African Voices Changemakers’ airs on Saturday 3rd July at 09:30 SAST on CNN International
The show also airs at the following times:
Saturday 3rd July at 18:30 SAST
Sunday 4th July at 04:30 SAST, 07:30 SAST, 12:30 SAST and 23:30 SAST
Tuesday 6th July at 18:45 SAST
Wednesday 7th July at 18:45 SAST