It is no doubt, the national lockdown caused by the devastating pandemic that is COVID19 has resulted in a widespread-impact on many various industries, including fashion. As such, Puma South Africa recently caught up with popular local fashion designer, Rich Mnisi to talk about how the lockdown, has affected his fashion business as well as what the young designer gets up to in order to maintain his well-being.
How does the current COVID-19 situation affect RICH MNISI?
Nobody, let alone a business operation, can deny the devastating global impact of COVID-19. As per WHO guidelines, at RICH MNISI we took an urgent call to action to quarantine for two weeks from 13 March. We work with a lot of elderly women and their health is our priority. Following President Ramaphosa’s lockdown announcement, we had to put a hold on orders, collaborations and work done under the RICH MNISI brand. This has affected us tremendously but we pledge our allegiance to our country and safety of our people above all else.
What are you working on?
We are working on THOUGHTS – a platform dedicated to building safe communities through respectful and powerful dialogues that inspire social change. We also plan to expand our latest collection, which debuted at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in Berlin, into a vast offering of accessories.
What inspires you to create during this time?
Having more time on my hands has allowed me to think clearly and more creatively in approaching things more purposefully and exploring an idea thoroughly.
You were awarded the Essence Emerging Designer of the Year award in September 2019. How has the recognition you have received through various awards helped you?
To win the Emerging Designer of the Year at Essence where industry pioneers like Rihanna, Billy Porter, Pat Cleveland, Tongoro, Zerina Akers, Zendaya and many more are recognised for the amazing work they have done is truly humbling. These awards gave me international recognition and birthed exciting collaborations, and put a spotlight on South African creatives and what we have to say. The world is learning that a lot of the sustainable practices they are adopting are things we’ve been doing for years, which goes to show how ahead of the curve we are.
What influences your brand creative?
I’m pretty open minded so anything can inspire me at any given point. Usually film, literature, architecture, art and technology do the trick.
You have dressed many big names – your favourites?
Beyoncé, Naomi Campbell and Hugh Masekela are three highlights. I grew up watching them and being able to work with them made me realise that there really are no limits.
Since graduating from LISOF in 2014, you have gained recognition locally and globally. What is the next step for you and RICH MNISI the brand?
To expand the brand into multiple disciplines beyond the arts.
Tell us about your ongoing relationship with PUMA South Africa?
PUMA is an upbeat and fashion forward brand. I fell in love with the brand when they collaborated with Rihanna and allowed her to reimagine the brand – it was fun, edgy and out of this world. I have partnered with PUMA for multiple international fashion shows and shoots, and it’s always the perfect fit. It is a relationship we value and would like to grow going forward.
PUMA favourites in your wardrobe?
Definitely my RS-X3 Super and PUMA x Sonic black hoodie.
Lockdown doesn’t have to mean living in pyjamas. How do you have fun with your outfits while staying home?
I still dress up to go to the kitchen. Like suit and corset.
You once said: “Fashion gives one the ability to provide others with tools to enhance their daily expressions and storytelling.” Advice for fans looking to continue their fashion story during lockdown?
Use this time to research as much as you can to better your knowledge and understanding of the industry. Define your craft and uniqueness to the core.
What is your advice to aspiring creatives during this time?
This is arguably the only downtime you’ll get before it gets crazy again. Please use it to invest in your dream – do not rest on your ideas.
How are you staying motivated and positive at this time?
It helps to maintain a state of bliss. Finding balance with a good diet, meditation and exercise has kept me positive and motivated. TikTok has also kept me entertained.
What words or message do you live by when faced with challenges?
You’re part of something way bigger – Beyoncé.
Any tips for staying healthy during lockdown?
Exercise your mind, body and soul.
TV shows you enjoy?
The Platform, RuPauls’s Drag Race, Glow Up, Next in Fashion, Queen Sono, The Politician, Pose, Locke & Key and Mother.
What are your top five ways to keep busy during lockdown?
Cooking, sketching, doing research, cleaning and pretending I’m headlining Coachella.
What three songs are you loving right now?
Doja Cat – Boss B, Dua Lipa – Break my Heart and DJ Zinhle – Go.