Turning the runway into Memory Lane

“Even if it was the worst of times, one can’t help but smile when looking at old photos,” says Johannesburg-based fashion designer Rich Mnisi. He’s referring to the inspiration for his Spring/Summer 16/17 collection that he will be showing at SA Menswear Week (SAMW) in Cape Town on July 8.  

Mnisi collaborated with designer Thebe Magugu on a project titled Family Photos, which puts nostalgia at the centre of their collection. 

“The nostalgia that undercuts the passing of time held our fascination,” says Mnisi, explaining that they used this idea to reimagine how basic staples could be fashioned and considered modern. 

“The idea of recapturing all these memories in a reimagined way lead to a deeper conversation about modernity and how it’s always used as an antonym in relation to Africa. With this in mind, we wanted to create a collection that merges the ideas of Africanism, modernity and family history together with our own experiences and views of what it was like growing up in an African home.” 

This year will be Mnisi’s fourth showing at SAMW, a platform that has been integral to the growth and development of his brand.  

“SA Menswear Week has been my home for three seasons and it’s been absolutely wonderful. As Menswear Week grows, so does my brand, and that is incredibly encouraging,” says Mnisi of the positive effect that platforms such as these have for young design talent in South Africa.  

Even though the runways of SAMW are familiar to Mnisi, every year and show is different. “It gets more intimidating each season,” he says.  

“People are taking notice of the platform more and taking it very seriously. The line-up is always filled with incredibly talented designers. It’s a very inspiring environment.”  

As he gears up for this year’s show, Mnisi is looking forward to some firsts. “It’s my first time collaborating with another brand and designer. The work we created is honest and we both gave it our all, so I can’t wait for people to witness that honesty,” he says.  

Having recently released the lookbook for his Autumn/Winter 16 collection, featuring some of South Africa’s best-known fashion influencers and now with his SAMW collection ready to take off, Mnisi is on the move.  

I ask him what’s next, and it seems he’s looking forward to catching his breath for a moment.  

“I’m focused on selling right now. At the moment, people can order directly from me, but in the next few months I’m finally going to be stocking my collections in a few stores, which is very exciting.”  

• SA Menswear Week SS16/17 takes place at Cape Town Stadium from July 6 to 9. For more information visit menswearweek.co.za and richmnisi.com

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