AFI Fastrack Finalist Sixx6’s High-Fashion Ode to the “Nothingness” of the Universe
Inspired by the unknowns of the universe, AFI Fastrack finalist Sixx6‘s Durban July ensemble takes us into the abyss in a tribute to “nothingness”.
By Ranji Mangcu
Demonstrating an incisive take on the brief, Mimangaliso Ndiko of Sixx6 brought a uniquely existential approach to the AFI Fastrack Durban July Challenge.
Leading with a haunting, yet sultry all-black ensemble, Ndiko made it his mission to meet the Durban July directive of grandeur, with a garment that the designer himself describes as “less, less, less… and less”. It was the perfect marriage between the Durban July’s “Out of this World” theme, and Sixx6’s established design philosophy – sustainable, high-end ready-to-wear that aims to make upcycling and sustainable design practice appealing to the contemporary consumer.
In keeping with a desire to produce pieces that are unrestricted – both visually and in their composition and relation to the wearer’s body, Sixx6 usually incorporates detachable features on their garments, playing with the mutability of clothes as they sit on the body. His look for the AFI Fastrack Durban July Challenge saw black butterflies adorning a black veil, attached to a waist-bearing lace-me-up crop-blazer, with wide sleeves. The bottom-half of the ensemble was made up of a mini-skirt with an adjustable ruche, lined with a black lace over-skirt to produce a dramatic, layered look.
Competing alongside fellow Fastrack Finalist Xhanti Xabiso Mpu of XHVNTI in the “Most Striking Couple” category, the pair’s models embodied the otherworldly and unknown in an offbeat, yet somewhat poetic way.
AFI: Congratulations on making it this far as an AFI Fastrack Finalist! We are now a few weeks after from the Durban July – How are you feeling about the challenge and your piece?
MN: It’s been a very exciting theme to embark on – I’ve always been fascinated by extra-terrestrial entities. I enjoyed conceptualising around this theme. I really am surprised at the improvement in my sewing and construction, but I am aware that there’s still a lot of room for improvement.
AFI: How do you believe your piece either follows, improves upon or intentionally deviates from the traditions of the Durban July?
MN: Taking the idea of “non-existence” as my inspiration, I wanted to be in contradiction with the theme, “Out of This World “. Equally, darkness and the concept of nothingness are key elements of outer space.
AFI: How did you find the experience of balancing your brand ethos with the theme? Did you find that it was an easy marriage to make?
Sixx6 is a brand that isn’t afraid to challenge the concept of sophistication, often doing so by increasing the sex appeal of garments. So, since I am technically inspired by “nothingness,” it was easy to create something that was, less, less, less… and less.
AFI: Some of the critiques were quite vigorous and I can imagine that they were a shock to the system – would you say you’ve grown in how you receive critique, between the beginning of the programme and now?
MN: I’ve grown to understand the criticism that comes with challenges. If anything, I’ve come to realise that it only pushes me to do better and create better pieces with the intention of turning criticism into compliments.
AFI: Have you always envisioned yourself as a professional fashion designer?
MN: I come from a very academic family of corporate and business individuals…. but little old me always sat in class, sketching dresses at the back of my textbooks and notebooks…. What I am most grateful for is having a grandmother who allowed me the freedom to not only explore fashion as my career choice but also my sexuality. I have adapted so much business etiquette from the late-night conversations we would have, where she’d ask me important questions like “how are you going to do it?”; “what opportunities are there for you in that field?” She has moulded me into a more business-savvy individual, and that is how I look at fashion. She taught me that everything is business, and fashion is no exception! Just know your business. I’m really trying to get into the retail space. I aim to familiarise myself with the arena of mass-production, as opposed to one-on-one clients. [I envision] More collaborations, and brand recognition in other areas of the world.
AFI: What have you been up to since Cape Town Fashion Week and being announced as an AFI Fastrack 2023 finalist?
XM: I’ve sold my garment, done a few interviews and sourced the same garment to a few magazines for upcoming editorials. I’ve also taken on my first bespoke client.
AFI: What is the most valuable thing you’ve learned through the Fastrack programme thus far?
MN: As a fashion organisation, AFI really does care about the development of young designers. It has been refreshing to be part of a program that is always there to guide and assist young designers every step of the way.
AFI: Many South African creatives have lamented the lack of infrastructure in place to effectively support South African creative industries. What is the importance of programmes such as AFI Fastrack in the uncertain, often emotionally taxing creative landscape of South Africa?
MN: AFI is a great start; a movement that is making sure that we capitalise off every challenge and opportunity that we get. All the challenges are tied to real, fashion-industry events, which gives us a platform to further expand our brands’ presences.
Click here to follow Mimangaliso Ndiko's journey as an AFI Fastrack 2023 finalist.