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Rich Mnisi shares how he created a successful fashion brand

Rich Mnisi, the founder of Rich Mnisi. Picture: Instagram/@therichmnisi.

Rich Mnisi, the founder of Rich Mnisi. Picture: Instagram/@therichmnisi.

Published Aug 12, 2021

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Rich Mnisi is one of the most successful designers in South Africa.

The multi-award-winning designer and Forbes 30 under 30 Class of 2019 inductee uses fashion to connect with his culture and heritage by telling a compelling story through his designs.

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Mnisi, part of the Nedbank YouthX programme, explains his journey as a fashion designer.

What and who inspired you to become a fashion designer?

I have always loved fashion. The desire to create a space that embodies an authentic expression of gender fluidity through an African lens and the complexities of identity inspired me to start the Rich Mnisi brand. Furthermore, I looked up to my mother and my family as they inspire me. As I evolve and the brand, Rich Mnisi, becomes bigger, I aim to enhance expressions of lived realities and storytelling, as I come from a family rooted in the rich traditions of the Vatsonga tribe.

When did you know that fashion is the path you wanted to follow? When did you start taking it seriously?

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For me, identity and authentic expression matter. I've had a fascinating journey so far. Growing up as a black African child, I found familiarity with “queer expressions” in an environment that did not necessarily understand that world. To become the Rich Mnisi that I am today, I've searched, discovered, and live in the realm of gender fluidity. The opportunity to study fashion exposed me to a world of possibilities.

What inspired you to start your own business, and what has contributed to your success?

It's the idea of family, community and creating a legacy. Most importantly, to keep my family name alive. Rich Mnisi is a global brand in a country that's committed to achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. We are constantly finding creative ways to respond to the market’s challenges and the legislative framework that governs our business practices locally and internationally. Our track record as Rich Mnisi has illustrated our commitment to finding the balance between sustainability and growth. We have learnt from our partners BCI Cotton – we try as far as possible to use ethically sourced materials and focus on improving the lives of the people and communities directly involved in our production line.

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What are some of the challenges you’ve faced as a young African designer? How have you overcome those?

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Some of the challenges include transparency, traceability, and being measurable as a socio-economic contributor in the places in which we work. We overcome challenges by being a socially conscious brand. Of course, this comes with an understanding of the global movement. That pushes us to increase industry standards and to tackle responsible business practices across multiple elements of the supply chain.

How do you manage to stay relevant in this industry? And how has this contributed to your success?

In all honesty, anyone who wants to be part of this industry cannot afford to be in wait-and-see mode. Times and markets are constantly changing, and you need to accept these changes while learning to adapt. Having come to terms with our new normal, we needed to change our approach by reimagining our baseline requirements, by turning our attention to our customers while elevating and taking their experience to the next level.

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Rich Mnisi

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