This South African fashion designer sees furniture design as fluid

Transitioning from avantgarde fashionFurniture design is not an easy task, but South African artists are skilled at it. Rich Mnisi It seems effortless. His bold, colorful designs transcend gender, seasons, and design disciplines. However, Nyoka is his solo exhibition of collectible furniture pieces. “My broad design vision is underpinned by an aesthetic and philosophical fluidity, and this is reflected in my approach to both fashion and furniture design,”He tells Business of Home.

The bronze snake that punctuates a curvy console in Rich Mnisi’s Nyoka collectionCourtesy Southern Guild/Ricardo Simal

Born in Kempton Park in Johannesburg, Mnisi graduated in 2014 from LISOF (now Stadio School of Fashion). He was soon named African Fashion International Young Designers of the Year at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa. Mnisi launched his eponymous brand in 2015. fashionLabel and quickly received rave reviews for his vibrant, gender neutral designs that combine elements from contemporary pop culture with traditional African themes.

Mnisi said that it was much like his fashionNyoka’s designs are on display at the Southern Guild gallery, Cape Town, from September 23rd to November 11. It draws inspiration from his family history as well as African mythology. The collection features a curved console, a bronze snake, and an asymmetrical woven rug in contrasting shades in karakul wool or mohair. It also includes a bronze chandelier with resin bubbles and two low-slung, sheepskin-covered, black leather seats. “The exhibit plays with the duality of fear and beauty, epitomized by the image of the snake,”He explains. “Nyoka means ‘snake’ in Xitsonga.”

Mnisi collaborated closely with a few local artisans, including Coral & Hive, Bronze Age Studio, and Monkeybiz to bring the six-piece collection to life. Mnisi experimented with everything from nature-inspired patterns and biomorphic forms, to expand his notion of fluidity. “This comes from an authentic place, which I suspect is my queerness,”He explains. “It’s about refusing to be boxed and angular, and rather focusing on enhancing the ability to be free-flowing, which gives the works an organic substance.”

This South African fashion designer sees furniture design as fluid

Mnisi worked with local artisans including Monkeybiz to create his first solo furniture exhibit at the Southern Guild gallery. Courtesy Southern Guild/Bruce Buttery & Panga Films

Mnisi also incorporates a variety of organic shapes and motifs in the collection. Mnisi also uses a wide range materials, including resin and beads, to give some furniture pieces a fluid, rhythmic feel. “For the console, for example, we wanted to capture that sense of movement of the xibelani skirt, and beading seemed like the best form of artistry to relay that feeling and flow,”He said.

While Mnisi’s creations may moonlight as works of art, he says he designed each piece in the collection with practicality in mind. “Coming from a fashion space and having to apply functionality to a garment that walks has naturally spilled into my approach to furniture,”He said. “I’m attracted to pieces that people can use, touch and interact with, so functionality is key.”

Nyoka’s ultimate goal, however, was to create a furniture line that people could both love and actually use. “It was important from the outset that these weren’t just static artworks,”He said. “I wanted to design pieces that you’re able to interact with on some level, and maybe even experience from a more tactile perspective.”

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Rich Mnisi can be found on his website or followed on Instagram.

Homepage photo: Inside Rich Mnisi’s studio in South Africa | Courtesy of Southern Guild/Ricardo Simal

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