When it comes to selling any kind of product, one way to get people talking about what you have to offer is to place a hefty price tag on an item they would otherwise expect to pay significantly less for.
South African designer Rich Mnisi (stylised as RICH MNISI) did just that when his label debuted a R59,999 xibelani skirt for sale on their website.
The word xibelani (pronounced shee-beh-lah-nee) is of Tsonga origin and refers to both a type of dance and the traditional skirt worn by women during that dance. The word itself translates to “hitting to the rhythm”.
I should also note that the skirt sold doesn’t look like a proper-proper xibelani… The ones our Moms and aunts rocked for all these years. https://t.co/xcVKqvCLmJ
— Nello ???? (@_Nelleaux) February 2, 2021
Traditionally, the skirt, often knee-length, was worn around the waist of women set to dance at traditional gatherings and celebrations.
However, in recent years, Tsonga women from all walks of life have found new and interesting ways to rock this item – usually reserved for special occasions – in a more casual, modern way.
One such woman is artist Sho Madjozi, who made the item part of her signature style.
That xibelani is for Sho Madjozi, she’s one of the few people who can afford it and rock it. Iyaaa pic.twitter.com/A3DCHakh7w
— Samurai Jackie (@RichRakgadi) February 2, 2021
The history of Xibelani
The skirts are said to have originally been made with accordion-pleated fabric and later, with wool – a style that has come to be more mainstream.
One designer who has embraced the wool style is Shikombiso Bila of Maxelo Style (pronounced mah-shelo).
Her pricing begins at R1000 for small-to-medium xibelanis size 28-34 and goes up from there. Large xibelanis, size 36 and above, start at R1500.
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Brand Novità Heartsmile also sells a version of the wool xibelani with pricing as follows:
Baby up to 3 years – R550
Kids up to 10 years – R750
Teen sizes from 11 years – R1000
Adults size 30 to 36 – R1400
An additional R80 is added to the pricing per dress size thereafter.
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So how exactly did Rich Mnisi get a R60,000 xibelani price tag?
Perhaps the price tag comes from the fact that the Rich Mnisi xibelani skirt is crafted from 5km of 100% merino wool, knotted onto nickel-plated d-rings attached to a leather belt made of 100% genuine calf nappa leather.
You know what, good for rich Mnisi. I feel like most Tsonga people already know where to go when they need a Xibelani. Everyone else can pay that????????♀️
— intermission: flower (@Felicity_M2) February 2, 2021
The merino is a sheep breed prized for its wool. A Wikipedia entry bills it as is one of the most historically relevant and economically influential breeds of sheep.
According to Core Merino, a local brand that sells expert running gear made from the special wool, “merino wool helps to regulate body temperature and keep you dry as the fibre naturally absorbs and releases moisture, which means less sweat on your body and on your clothes”.
“It resists the build-up of odour molecules allowing you to wear merino garments more and wash them less.”
The brand boasts that the material is also biodegradable, static resistant, breathable and elastic in addition to a number of impressive features.
A recent Moneyweb article had the wool priced at R253.82 a kilogram due to a recent slump in the rand.
Tsonga twitter is having a meltdown with Rich Mnisi’s pricing for xibelani ???????????? pic.twitter.com/IlcSH9m19P
— Victoria Grayson (@Mfumo_B) February 2, 2021