Can contemporary South African menswear ever be properly discussed without the groundbreaking work of designer Rich Mnisi? The LISOF graduate has pushed the boundaries of menswear, deconstructing hyper-masculine stereotypes and documenting the lives of South Africa’s alternative subcultures, particularly the cross-dressing street kids of Soweto.
The Autumn 16 collection which debuted at the South African Menswear Week 2016 has seen the designer refine its eye, and sharpen it’s aesthetic. The label uses exaggerated silhouettes and detailing as a design technique to simultaneously exaggerate and divest each piece of gender. He offers padded blouson jackets with exaggerated lapels in leather, felt and crushed velvet. Dress shirts are played up with flared sleeves and pleather pants. The womenswear at Mnisi this season are even stronger, with exaggerated ruffling dressing up sleeves and substituting for lapels. Gorgeous flared gingham skirts and jumpsuits show a part of the designer that we’ve never seen before.
Ultimately there is little this season that cannot fit in easily into any wardrobe. Rich Mnisi might not draw inspiration from the fight for identity in Soweto’s inner city slums, but he is still very much at the vanguard of expanding the conversation on what is permissible or admissible for a contemporary fashion consumer.
And man, is he articulate.