I don’t create with trends in mind: Rich Mnisi on his ‘nonconforming’ 2nd Adidas x Homeland drop

In an exclusive sit-down with NOWinSA, the Soweto-born designer describes his 'nonconforming' 2nd Homeland Adidas collaboration as "quintessentially mutual", eminently coming together to tell the exciting story of his Tsonga roots, and essentially as a proud African queer man, in whose world colour is simply a matter of self-expression, and not a yardstick for one's sexual identify.

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From the hold dazzling one-on-one conversation with the star of the show himself, the globally renowned SA fashion designer Rish Mnisi, to the wonderful pleasantries with industry peeps to the awe inspiring fashion – and flowing tasty canapés and the red wine of course – the official launch of #AdidasxRichMnisi Homeland collection at Archive store in Sandton City was nothing short of phenomenal.

In an exclusive sit-down with NOWinSA editor, Tankiso Komane, the Soweto-born designer brands his Adidas collaboration as “quintessentially mutual”, which he further goes on to describe as a unifying force for both his Tsonga heritage and as a proud African queer man, in whose world, colour is simply a matter of self-expression, and not a yardstick for one’s sexual identify.

Attractive and functional: the #AdidasxRichMnisi capsule collection can be worn on a day-to-day basis. 

Hailed for providing a unique platform for authentic expression of gender-fluidity as he’s known for his bold and daring approach to fashion, Mnisi looks at clothing, he tells me, as something he’s intrinsically attracted to. 

“Whether it’s in the women’s or men’s section, if it’s something I like,  I will buy and wear it … that’s how I want to encourage people to experiment with clothing as well,” he says adding: “It is so liberating for people to express themselves the way they want to. I mean what you put on your body doesn’t necessarily defines you. It’s simply a matter of self-expression and how you want to present yourself in a particular moment.

He adds: “To me that’s important given that, growing up, we were told that ‘pink is for girls and that blue is for boys’, and now that’s not a thing anymore … as a creative it’s nice being able to inject that idea into people’s thoughts, to a point where we’re now seeing even ‘respectable men’ in skirts.”

“I see colour as a matter of self-expression and how you want to present yourself in a particular moment” – Rich Mnisi (right) during a chat with NOWinSA editor Tankiso Komane.

For those wondering if the new line will outlive the current hype, “trends and PR”, as one audience member specifically put it, the globe-trotting designer gave a simple and precise answer, stating: “Firstly, I dont create with trends in mind. As you can see even with this range, it’s a capsule collection, meaning it’s functional on a day-to-day basis, be it for sports or any other occasion or season.”

True to form, each piece has been designed to be worn as a standout piece or accessorised and layered for a more individual and expressive look.

Mnisi says the Adidas x Homeland collab draws inspiration from his Tsonga heritage.

Advice to upcoming fashion designers looking for a breakthrough? They need to work on their craft until they’re 100% sure, says Mnisi, famous for dressing the likes of Adidas creative partner and American music superstar Beyoncé.

“As creatives we’re always promised our big break, and that can be good and bad because sometimes that can take you off the rail, because you’re awaiting this ‘big break’ that someone else promised you. To be honest, I think the only person you can promise that to, is yourself. And you need to feed into that mentality, and consistently work on your craft until you’re perfect at what you do. I for one, I’d never do something until I know I am 100% ready.

“I remember in 2018 or 2019, when we were asked if we’re ready to sign internationally, I said ‘no because I thought ‘you know, I still need to figure out this manufacturing thing properly’, because its so bad to make mistake on a global platform. So you almost have to thoroughly know yourself – your strengths and weaknesses. You can acknowledge that you’re talented, but don’t ever make the mistake to think you’re bigger than how things work.”

Going global … and knowing when you’re ready

Saying ‘NO’ is not always such a bad thing, you can say ‘NO’ to the biggest celebrity, or a big brand like Adidas if you’re not ready.”

Rich Mnisi
Although female focused, the line knows no boundaries for those who are nonconforming and don’t look at fashion through the eyes of gender.

As to when did he know he was ready to go global, he says: “It’s been an organic thing, like ‘Rich are you ready to take the next big step?’ So it’s has to be a ‘YES YES YES or a big NO if you aren’t … you know saying ‘NO’ is not always such a bad thing, you can say ‘NO’ to the biggest celebrity in the world, or a massively big brand like Adidas if you’re not.”

He adds: “That’s why it’s so important to find your voice. If I hadn’t found mine, and an opportunity like Adidas comes, it could easily dilute everything that I’ve worked hard to create. So you always have to be so ready. Like now…the beautiful thing about this collaboration with myself and Adidas is that it feels quintessentially mutual. It doesn’t feel like their brand is bigger than mine or vice versa. That’s what you need to work towards as a creative; having such a strong brand identity that you can interact with anyone in the world no matter how big, and it still doesn’t phase the development of your project.”

#AdidasxRichMnisi 2nd Homeland edition; availability 

Although the line is female focused, it knows no boundaries for those who are noncomforming and don’t look at fashion through the eyes of gender.

Made from recycled material, #AdidasxRichMnisi 2nd Homeland edition includes the iconic Stan Smith range, with an African touch!

From crewnecks to sweatshirts, tees and pop art dresses – all made from recycled material – to the iconic Adidas footwear lines such as the Stan Smith, NMD, ASTIR, HER COURT and Adilette, the pieces fuse bright, bold animal prints, vibrant clashing colours and striking abstract patterns that come together to tell the exciting story of Mnisi’s roots.

If you’re looking for pieces that seamlessly fuses style, colour, and function, you’re pretty much guaranteed to make an impression in these pieces.⁣

  • The Adidas x Rich Mnisi collection is on sale on Monday, May 23 across selected Archive Stores.