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MEET IMPRINT’S MZUKISI MBANE

Known for his electrifying prints and gender-bending menswear, Imprint’s Mzukisi Mbane is a local talent you need to know.  What’s more? He’ll be showing his latest collection at South African Menswear Week SS15, in Cape Town next week.

ELLE: What is so unique about Imprint?

Imprint makes clothing and accessories that narrate the stories of our African ancestors. Whatever we produce references to a certain point in time, an object in the past, a location, a significant movement, or it’s just reconnecting to a feeling. It’s all about story-telling.

ELLE: Tell us about Our Roots, your latest collection.

It’s a celebration of where we all come from, our different cultures and, most of all, our shared root, the woman who gave birth to us all. It doesn’t matter if you do not have a mother in your life. We are all woman-made, and that’s the root that makes us the strongest. I was born to a stylish, strong black woman in the township who raised me to become a strong, hardworking and loving man. These roots of mine show up in all aspects of my life. My clothing is always about accepting people, celebrating people, and being proud of who you are. Through my roots, I established a strong, distinctive identity. We grow, we change, we get introduced to new things, but our roots forever keep us real. They are who we are.

ELLE: You’re influenced by the energy of townships. Could you explain that?

I was born and raised in the townships. It’s something that I celebrate. For me, there is something very special about the townships, the people, the music and the culture. Growing up there was always something very interesting about how clothes and fashion were interpreted by the people in the township.

ELLE: What inspired you to become a fashion designer?

Being a fashion designer was just something I secretly wanted to be, but studying BCOM Accounting made logical sense. I remember reading an article that stated, ‘thanks to Kanye West, now real men can wear pink’. From that moment on, I told myself that no matter where my life ends, I will one day be responsible for a movement in fashion and create change.

ELLE: Could you tell us more about the gender-bending pieces in your collection?

I started out with the tagline ‘a brand that accepts people of all shapes and sizes’ and that automatically translates into my designs. I found myself making clothes that were not really size specific. They fitted, but they fitted a lot of different sizes, and the design changed with the shape and size of the person wearing it. From there on, my clothes were not really gender specific. Historically, men have worn dresses, but unisex fashion is also becoming very popular worldwide. This also makes clothes very easy to sell because you have a wider customer base. And obviously the gender bending concept connects with the theme of ‘our roots’ and the celebration of women.

ELLE: And your South Africa Menswear Week’s (SAMW) presentation?

I will be showing a few swimwear pieces, but the most important thing about the collection is that it is all handmade – from the clothes to the smallest accessory. The signature African print is there but it’s used differently. The collection is about effortless style and I would love for people to watch the runway presentation and say ‘I want to wear it’ – regardless of gender.

ELLE: Your vision for Imprint?

I want to leave a mark. My focus is on growth opportunities for the brand, both locally and internationally. I’m one of six creatives under a pilot business incubator programme by the National Department of Arts and Culture and SABS Design Institute that aims to promote the brand by creating sustainable employment opportunities. I plan to launch my online store and to establish a reliable product distribution channel. And yes, I want to conquer the world. Imprint, leave that mark.

View a selection of images from Imprint’s latest collection below: