XHVNTI: A Fashion Label That Transcends Gender and Space

XHVNTI: A Fashion Label That Transcends Gender and Space

AFI Fastrack 2023 Finalist Xhanti Mpu's XHVNTI's Interpretation of the Durban July’s “Out of this World” Theme

AFI Fastrack Finalist XHVNTI Imagines Extra-Terrestrial High Fashion at the Durban July

By Ranji Mangcu

Following an outstanding debut at Cape Town Fashion Week in March, AFI Fastrack Finalist XHVNTI embraced the Durban July’s “Out of this World” theme as an opportunity to explore storytelling through founder Xhanti Xabiso Mpu’s childhood fascination with astronomy and interplanetary exploration.  

XHVNTI define themselves as a luxury menswear brand that redefines traditional notions of gender and fashion. According to founder Xhanti Xabiso Mpu, the eponymous label is built upon the experiences that have shaped his identity, presenting a vision of clothing that serves those whose style transcends the traditional gender binary. 

Considering the care and detail that the designer put into delivering a mood board presentation that was detailed, what was apparent in Mpu’s interpretation of the brief was a commitment to world-building.  

Conceptually, this look saw the label position fashion as a connective thread between the world that we know and a world that exists beyond our own, imagining a dress code for a version of humanity adapting to extra-terrestrial life.  

Deviating from the brand’s usual focus on structured tailoring, Mpu produced a XHVNTI look built on amorphous uniformity. A black material embellished with faint, silvery pinstripes formed the base for an ethereal co-ord, comprising a loose-fitting turtleneck and elegantly draped pants. With hems descending into a short train, a slit at the ankles revealed a pair of mid-heeled, patent-leather ankle boots.  

Competing alongside fellow Fastrack Finalist Mimangaliso Ndiko of Sixx6 in the “Most Striking Couple” category, XHVNTI delivered a sophisticated, yet offbeat interpretation of the challenge.  

AFI: What have you been up to since Cape Town Fashion Week and being announced as an AFI Fastrack Finalist?  

XM: Since Cape Town Fashion Week, I have been building on my brand’s identity. Cape Town Fashion Week made me realise the importance of brand identity in creating a unique selling point.  

AFI: Some of the critiques for the AFI Fastrack Durban July Challenge were quite vigorous. Would you say you’ve grown in how you receive critique, between the beginning of the programme and now?   

XM: Absolutely, I feel that I can take constructive criticism much better now than before the programme. 

AFI: How do you believe your piece either follows, improves upon or intentionally deviates from the traditions of the Durban July?  

XM: I pay a lot of attention to design and tailoring. While Durban July tradition is bling, sequins and crystals, my fabric deviates from tradition by being plain.  

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?  

XM: Gender fluidity is a core part of my brand ethos, and it was not too difficult to carry this message through in my design.  

AFI: Where does the concept development process begin for you? What kind of research do you undertake? (visual/ textual/lived experience?)  

XM: Every part of my process begins with my own lived experience as a queer body living in Africa. 

AFI: What is the most valuable thing you’ve learned through the AFI Fastrack programme thus far?  

XM: I have valued the experience of telling my story through my brand, XHVNTI.  

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 the AFI Fastrack in the uncertain, often emotionally taxing creative landscape of South Africa?  

XM: AFI Fastrack gives young designers the opportunity to showcase and be visible to the whole country, which is priceless. 

AFI: Have you always envisioned yourself as a professional fashion designer?  

XM: Yes, I have. I am hugely inspired by the great designers that have come before me. Because of their example, I view what I do as a serious profession.  

AFI: You could choose to go in a multitude of directions from here. Where do you envision your brand’s trajectory in, say, the next five years?  

XM: I pray for a retail opportunity in the near future. I believe that it’s an opportunity for stable income, which is what XHVNTI needs in order to shoot to the next level.  

Click here to follow Xhanti Xabiso Mpu’s journey as an AFI Fastrack 2023 finalist. 

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