XHVNTI-s-AFI-Fastrack-Prize-Journey African Fashion International

XHVNTI's AFI Fastrack Prize Journey

Buhle Mbonambi 

XHVNTI is a menswear brand that shatters traditional notions of gender and fashion.

Founded by Xhanti Xabiso Mpu, the designer’s vision goes beyond clothing; it's about creating a space for those who express themselves through style that transcends the limitations of the binary. 

Ahead of the AFI Fastrack Prize finale, we spoke to the designer about their creative journey and exploring how AFI Fastrack helped him refine his brand's unique voice

Before entering the AFI Fastrack Prize, what were your biggest challenges as a designer, and how has Fastrack helped you address them?

I struggled to develop a strong point of view for my brand. The XHVNTI brand identity was not as defined and streamlined as it is now, thanks to the push from the programme to constantly think about who the customer is and what my story is. Throughout the Fastrack programme we held presentations that forced us to think about these things and be able to articulate them.

Can you share a specific instance where mentorship and feedback you received from AFI Fastrack mentors pushed your creative boundaries and resulted in a design breakthrough?

As a creative, I often fall into the common habit of having too many ideas and throughout the programme I would receive feedback on how I need to streamline my thinking and pick one strong idea that would encompass my main creative direction.

While this did not only help in the specific challenges, as a brand I have been able to find a singular voice that speaks to my audience and relays my message in a concise fashion.

XHVNTI Joburg Fashion Week 2023

Can you describe a collaboration you fostered or an aspect of the program that encouraged teamwork, and how did this impact your approach to design?

We were challenged to collaborate on the Comfort Challenge during Joburg Fashion Week.

We had to create a garment inspired by the values of the brand. Working with Loice was a nice challenge. Having to fuse our ideas and different perspectives into one great idea. Dare I say the challenge was a success.

How did your personal experiences and cultural influences shape your approach in creating your final collection for the AFI Fastrack Prize, and how does it define your distinctive design identity?

For this final collection, I drew extensively from my identity as a queer African. Embracing my cultural heritage guided my creative vision, while also celebrating the freedoms our 30 years of democracy have granted us.

This collection reflects those influences, weaving together personal experiences and cultural nuances into designs that speak authentically to my unique design ethos.

XHVNTI Durban July Challenge

How have you considered sustainability in your final collection, and how do you it influencing your future design philosophy?

I have sourced organic natural fabrics for this collection, and I intend to carry the theme of sustainability in all my future projects.

What message do you want to convey to the industry with your final collection?

This collection celebrates the inclusion Black South Africans have gained through democracy. Prior to 1994, Black participation in many areas, including sports, was restricted. After gaining freedom, South Africa competed in the 1995 Rugby World Cup and won.

XHVNTI Red Look Cape Town Fashion Week

Beyond winning, how do you envision AFI Fastrack shaping your path as a designer in the African fashion landscape?

I envision an increased brand credibility and more opportunities opening up for XHVNTI.

What can the industry expect from you as a designer after the competition?

The industry can expect XHVNTI to continue with a strong sense of identity, a focus on gender norms, and a commitment to sustainability.

The winner of the AFI Fastrack Prize 2023/24 will be announced on Friday, 21 June 2024 in Johannesburg, South Africa. 

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.