Designer Rich Mnisi needs little introduction. He’s a multi-hyphenate force in the local fashion scene whose work is equally loved on the international stage. People adore him because everything he does has a distinct ‘Rich Mnisi-ness’ to it — a vibrant authenticity.
“One day I’ll take photos, and the next day creative direct, and style the following day. It all feeds back into my brand because everything informs how I put together the Rich Mnisi collection,” Mnisi says.
In the whirlwind four years since Mnisi debuted his eponymous label, he’s become one of the most talked-about local designers of his generation — and rightfully so. Mnisi doesn’t only make clothes that people want to wear — clothes that he describes as “extremist yet minimalist” — he also instils real meaning into his work, namely memories of the maternal figures in his family.
“When I started, it was about fitting in. I was just accepting how the industry is run,” he says. “But then I started exploring myself, and I think that honesty is what people gravitated towards. My approach is very honest. And as much as it looks refined and finished and like a thought-out thing, for me, it’s me just exploring myself.”
Developing the brand — which is now synonymous with vibrant prints, crafty layering, pleated skirts, and bright suits — has been a steep learning curve for Mnisi.
He went from making clothes for people he knew to collaborating with Coca-Cola and showing on runways in Nigeria and China. “I allow myself to make mistakes and not think of them as mistakes. Fashion is so personal, and I would have stopped a long time ago if I hadn’t learnt to just allow the process to be the process,” he says.
At the heart of this all is Mnisi’s love for clothes. “I enjoy dressing up. It’s so much fun. When you remove everything that you experience in fashion — the good and the bad — the best part is when you just play with clothing.”
MNISI STYLE NOTES
The first item of clothing you were excited to own? Red skinny jeans from Jay Jays — skinny jeans were in, and Jay Jays was popping.
Style icon? Growing up, my older sister. She was very creative and so crafty. She would make her own clothes, cut things up… She just enjoyed playing with clothing. She inspired me to do what I do.
What are you listening to? Jazmine Sullivan. I love the way she writes and tells stories.
The last item you bought and loved? Oversized black contact lenses — they’re scary, but I love them. I hate my pupils because they’re tiny, and I have big eyes.
Favourite restaurant? I often eat at Big Mouth on Nelson Mandela Square.
Top fragrance? Eleventh Hour by Byredo.
Best city? Dubai because it’s so synthetic. It’s crazy. I’m fascinated by it. And then definitely Lagos.
- From the March edition of Wanted 2019.