A designer who knows how to leave his imprint season after season, Mzukisi Mbane makes his mark on the South African Fashion scene.
THE DESIGNER: The Cape based designer explains how he started his distinctively African brand Imprint -and how important heritage is to his fashion story.
HIS BRAND: The brand creates fashion-forward lifestyle pieces rooted in street wear and vintage influences.
Since your first fashion week show, how has your brand grown?
MM: When I showed for the first time in 2015, I really was just introducing myself. Because of how well it was received, I felt is was important and necessary to expand my brand vocabulary. Since then, and as the brand simultaneously experienced growth, I’ve had the opportunity to define the brands aesthetic and signature very well. And clients are familiar with it. Even in a world flooded by prints and color, you can just spot an Imprint original.
What was your experience like breaking into the industry as a new, young designer?
MM:I remember when I entered the industry, it was such a process for me. To first be recognized as a designer. I also struggled to establish a market base that’s loyal to the brand. And with all of that I felt fashion week platforms were only open to designers who had resources, money and an established name. Accessing information wasn’t as easy as it should have been.What’s lacking is a structure to assist young designers with important aspects such as branding, establishing a brand that buyers can invest in, accessing finance, accessing markets to test your product etc. All the things that help you build a brand that can actually have a strong identity and longevity.
How you are always able to draw each collection back to the importance of heritage?
MM:For me it’s the most natural thing. I always joke about how I feel like I get these collections from my ancestors. And to some extent I believe that to be true. This has a lot to do with knowing and owning your story and who you are.
What can you tell us about your upcoming collection?
MM:I can’t say much, but the collection is very personal to me. It’s got a lot of ancient African techniques. It celebrates everything that came together to make who I am. It celebrates Africa as a major player in bringing what we call couture to the world. The collection is called “Abenguni”. It further gives acknowledgement to my ancestors for all that they have been communicating with me through the work I’ve been able to produce. With it I am saying,“the spot light is on you now, let me celebrate you.”
Would you define your label as luxury?
MM: Imprint is defined as an African luxury brand. However, in the South African context and market it is extremely hard to survive as a brand in this regard, as a solely luxury brand. I have grown to appreciate that for me to grow the brand and make a living, the luxury element is targeted towards my international market while creating more affordable lines for easy access in the local market.
Your definition of luxury is …
MM: Luxury basically speaks to a look that says I have more than I need, and its more than enough. And for me there is that strong element of pride and ownership. And above all luxury is effortless and easy. When one speaks of African luxury it then speaks of Africans taking pride in our rich culture, owning our identity and the knowing that we have more than we could ever need. The world is looking at us.
Instagram : @imprint_za