5 African queer designers that have influenced fashion

Rich Mnisi. Picture: Instagram

Rich Mnisi. Picture: Instagram

Published Oct 31, 2020


When it comes to fashion, Africa has bee a lake of creativity that has never run dry.

With several countries from across the continent not only "inspiring" some of the biggest luxury brands in the world, but also producing some of the best designers in the world.

The fashion industry, much like most creative industries has also been a place that many queer people have been drawn too and subsequently work in.

This is no different when it comes to fashion designers, and South Africa has been able to be a springboard for many openly queer designer to thrive.


Rich Mnisi is one of the biggest talents to have come out of the South African fashion scene.

Not only has Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter been draped in Rich Mnisi but his signature printed polo neck sweaters and short-sleeves have become some of the most sought-after items. And as it pertains to blurring gender lines when it comes to clothing, Rich has never been scared to show that clothes are for everyone.

When talking about why his brand has gained so much popularity Rich said: "I think the growth of the brand has been gradual.

Over the past five years we've been building; showcasing at local and international fashion shows, collaborating with local and international brands and campaigns. It is great to finally be a part of the local conversation, to be embraced and celebrated by South Africans."

The brand was also recently selected as one of two winners for the 2020 edition of Vogue Talent's Digital Event under the Scouting for Africa.


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When it comes to red carpet eleganza, Gert-Johan is no stranger.

Having been the go-to designer for Bonang Matheba among other celebrities such as Minnie Dlamini-Jones, Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters and many others, he is the king of serving a sickening red

carpet gown that will have you gagging. Gert-Johan was also behind Somizi Mhlongo-Motaung's epic wedding suit seeing him dip into menswear too. Speaking about his design process he said: "Whenever I design a garment, it needs to be special for that person and capture what their whole life is about.

It's important for there to be a clear mark that this is a Gert-Johan Coetzee garment." Gert-Johan has also launched his new unisex fragrance Double Platinum Eau de Parfum by Gert-Johan Coetzee.


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As one of the OGs in the South African fashion scene, Thula Sindi has been able to stay relevant

since he started his brand back in 2005. He is one of very few designers who have been able to cross from runway to reality.

Thula's clothes can often be seen worn in the real world with various women showing off the craftsmanship and elegance of a Thula Sindi garment.

Thula also opened his second Africa Rise Concept store in Marshalltown, Johannesburg which not only houses his clothes but those of other African designers such as David Tlale, Ephymol, Rubicon, Maria McCloy, and Imprint. Speaking about the idea behind the store he said: "This is my sole retail venture and as the curator, I have invited designers that I love to position us in a mall that understands and believes that we also belong in those spaces as African designers."


Menswear can sometimes fall behind when it comes to having a wide variety of exciting options to choose from.

However, Ruald has been at the forefront of getting all men to move away from the snooze fest that is the men's section in retail stores.

Giving them vibrate prints, sequins, and more silhouettes to play with.

Ruald has shown on various runways including SA Menswear Week and the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. On a personal front, Ruald and his husband Clinton Savage also become dads last year.


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David Tlale is one of the biggest designers to have come out of South Africa.

Not only has he shown at multiple fashion weeks in the country he has also been one of the select few from the continent to have shown at New York Fashion Week.

Known for his extravagant fashion shows and clothes, opulence has also been the name of the game when it comes to anything David puts his name on.

David has not only grown his fashion empire but has also branched out in various other ventures including an underwear collaboration with Jockey, he is also a former brand ambassador for Courvoisier cognac, has a shoe range with Crockett & Jones, and most recently his collaboration with Avon.

Speaking about this new collection and how he comes about it he said: "The inspiration behind the collection is the xibelani skirt, which is a Tsonga celebration skirt that women wear for their dances, or sometimes as normal regalia daily.

“And fusing it with the underwater, making sure it becomes trendy, fashionable, and globally appealing."

David has always pushed boundaries, not only in his designs but also in how to move in the business of the fashion industry.

Check out the latest issue of Queer+ Magazine here.

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