From the Series
Rich Mnisi started his fashion label OATH when he graduated from Leaders in the Science of Fashion (LISOF). Inspired by pop culture, movies, music and art, Mnisi’s designs have already secured him awards at the SA Mercedes-Benz Fashion weeks. Designing to the beat of “vicious bass” in his garage, Mnisi believes that clothes have the power to affect mood, that all men should own a olive parka jacket, and that the most important thing is to be dope.
Dope is slang for good, aesthetically euphoric – just all-round goodness. So at OATH the word just says we are fully immersed in being what we set out to be. We work at being lost in the euphoria of creating. Just keep it dope.
Was fashion important to you when you were young?
I have always been very expressive. Career wise I saw a future in architecture, or sometimes law. As I grew older and discovered more and more about fashion, I just got pulled in by its energy.
What do you remember your parents dressing you in?
My mother would always have my eldest sister, who had a son of her own, do the shopping for the whole family… My nephew and I were in the same Ackermans outfits all the time!
Where do you look for inspiration?
In everything I absorb, especially visuals, I find inspiration: I see colour, silhouettes, moods and eras that influence a train of thought. Sometimes it comes when I'm not creating, but I store it.
What was the biggest lesson you learned since your first collection?
I started OATH straight out of varsity and I felt very prepared to start my own business but I soon realised it was much harder than I had imagined. There’s so much to consider and every single decision I make needs to be strategic. I’m fortunate to have business enthusiasts around who help me duck most obstacles. With Shane Childs involved in the business venture, I can finally focus on the creative and creating a strong brand.
What piece of clothing should every woman have in her wardrobe?
A orange turtleneck.
What part of the process of design do you enjoy the most?
Definitely when I start conceptualising and sketching. I stuff my ears with earphones and cotton wool (so the sound doesn’t escape), play the loudest music with vicious bass, go into my garage and pace up and down until I have the whole collection in my head.
What do you find the most challenging?
Production, from a financial point of view. There's an exorbitant amount of resources and techniques to make clothing but when capital is considered, more economical substitutes are accounted for. This helps working within limits while still producing high-quality product that has creative impact.
If you could bring something retro back into fashion what would it be?
Luckily for me they’re already back: bell-bottoms!
Why the name OATH?
I wanted to create a brand that is dedicated to an essence of being what it is without ever compromising. It's like a promise that makes it easier to create because I know what I'm creating and how. The brand has a strong sense of expression.
What appeals to you about satins and silks?
My design aesthetic sometimes has elements of "street" and I find that using luxurious fabrics balances it out. It enhances the liberal sense to be a bit more sophisticated; it's in a way two contrasting worlds coming together and it's that contrast that keeps OATH modern.
How does sportswear inspire your designs?
Different sport themes come into play depending on the season. For instance, the baseball jacket is constantly a feature in OATH collections –especially for fall. Then tennis shorts for spring collections.
Does winning awards make you feel inspired or under pressure?
Both: inspired because I feel energised to keep going and under pressure because now a panel is watching, waiting for me to showcase something which in their eyes is grander than the previous.
Do you enjoy being part of fashion weeks and the catwalks?
I do, it’s exciting. The lineup always makes me smile. The most thrilling part of a fashion show is the craze backstage. The hair and make-up team, the models and the dressers are so passionate about their work and everyone is fighting over the model so they can perfect their craft.
How do you think what you wear affects how you feel?
It's a mood enhancer: if what you have on clearly frames your ideal then you're bound to have a good day; if it doesn't then you might struggle. The ideal is not always chic and stylish. For some a sluggish t-shirt and jeans is their ideal and it's relevant.
Are you looking forward to Design Indaba?
Yes, OATH is a fairly new brand and being amongst so many talented individuals on a platform with so much exposure to the world of design is an honour and something I look forward to fully immersing myself in. I cannot wait to have my brand be a part of this space.
Do you think South Africa follows the seasonal trends of the northern hemisphere?
The streets follow trends of the northern hemisphere. But runway seems to be trying to set new ones at the same time.
What do you think will be big in 2015?
Awkward fits: a fit outside of what we're used to. Fashion is moving away from the body, further reiterating the "comfort" proportion notion.
What fashion pieces are you lusting over at the moment?