Words by Chandra Mophethe
XIPIXI is the latest menswear brand to be added to Merchants’ renowned selection of African luxury designers. Founded by creative director Antonio Macheve Jr. in 2012, the Mozambican brand was created as a response to the scarcity of menswear brands made in Africa with a strong international footprint “We, in Africa, consume various brands from around the world and the world does not yet widely consume brands made in Africa. I thought it is our responsibility as the creative youth in Africa to start shifting the mind-set that African are consumers and not producers”. Five years later and the brand is going from strength to strength with several fashion weeks under their belt and repeats customers which include ambassadors, diplomats and musicians. I spoke to the Antonio to find out more about his brand and who he hopes to work with in the future.
XIPIXI is a very interesting name. How did you decide on that name? Did you consider other names?
I wanted to have a meaningful and memorable name that was aesthetically classic and looked elegant in an antique font and was traditional at the same time. XIPIXI fit the description, it means cat in the Ronga language from Southern Mozambique. XIPIXI is commonly known as a colloquial expression referring to men
What is the story behind your brand?
As far as the kick-off, in late 2012, I had R45, made a pair of shorts, sold it, and was able to make 3 pair of shorts with the initial sale. I sold all 3 pairs, I was able to make 6, 12, 24… then invested in bow-ties, our signature accessory. Here we are five years later making full collections using our experiences as Africans in this increasingly globalized world to create and export aesthetically fine garments and accessories for our international clientele in 9 countries across the world. We have participated in fashion weeks, presidential galas, billboards and red carpets from Hollywood to South Africa and Mozambique.
Do you remember the first time you saw someone wearing one of your designs? What did it feel like?
I do recall seeing someone at the Canal Walk mall in Cape Town wearing one of our shorts for the first time, it was surreal. I remember going back to Facebook to check all the people who had XIPIXI hashtags and saw so many people felling proud of wearing our products. One of the most special memories was walking into wedding and seeing at least 7-8 gentlemen wearing our pieces and sharing their emotions about meeting the creative director of the brand when they saw me. I never thought that could ever happen, I have nonetheless learned to be at peace with being a public face.
Do you design with a particular kind of person in mind? How would you describe the XIPIXI man?
Yes I do, I usually think of specific gentlemen I would like to dress when I create new pieces, especially for our conceptual collections, and because I tend to be somewhat eclectic in my palette and sense of taste, the wardrobe is usually versatile. It’s always a pleasant feeling when I manage to dress someone, whether celebrity or not, I had in mind with a particular outfit.
The XIPIXI gentleman has two extremes, he is either very bold and colourful or subtle and discrete. It is somewhat an extension of my own personality as an individual as well as my character as a creative. Sometimes I enjoy being discrete, incognito and silent, and sometimes I am loud, bright and very visible. I think it’s important to always keep a balance and never be predictable. In spite of these extremes, one common denominator among XIPIXI gentlemen is that they are usually confident, like to reward themselves with elegance and have a certain sense of personal style.
What images were on your mood board while designing your latest collection?
My latest collections is entitled the Year of the Gentleman. I’m usually heavily inspired by images and sounds. I was a DJ for 11 years and so music is an important element of my creative process.
Visually, my mood board was filled with images of old cathedrals, chapels and castles which sort of informs the colourful pattern used as the main set of colours for the collection. In addition, I was fascinated with two movies at the time James Bond’s “Spectre” and the 1934 film “The Thin Man” played by William Powell. I was also excited to work with Top Model Dave Kabamba whose strong facial and physical features symbolize the modern African gentleman. On the flipside, issues such as social injustices affecting people of colour in neighbourhoods such as Compton in California and Staten Island in New York coupled with the new wave young disruptive urban fashionistas played a strong role in the urban aesthetic of the collection. Now, looking at this description, you can understand why some of the artists chosen for the soundtrack to the collection included Abdullah Ibrahim Barry White, William DeVaughn, Kendrick Lamar, Jay-Z, and Mozambican poet Marina Chichava.
Describe your latest collection in 5 words.
THE YEAR OF THE GENTLEMAN
What do you hope the people that wear your designs will feel?
Confident, elegant and conspicuous.
What are some of your favourite ways to style some of the pieces from your latest collection?
I like to contrast strong patterns and colours with other elegant fabrics such as fine wools, corduroys and velvets.
Who would you love to see wearing XIPIXI?
Sartorial African leaders such as Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank, Asap Rocky, Nas, Riky Rick, Kanye West, the bearded Ben Affleck and George Clooney.
How do you feel the man you design for have changed over the past few seasons?
He has taken more risks, he no longer shies away from colour. An Oxford professor, while wearing a XIPIXI bow-tie said: “I like the colours, you know, gentlemen should not be afraid of colour, when God created Adam & Eve, he didn’t assign colours to them.
Future plans for you and the brand? Any plans to expand into womenswear?
Surprises, surprises…XIPIXI means cat, man, gentleman, a good looking cat.
Who are some of your favourite designers?
Olivier Rousteing, Filippo Scuffi, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabana, Tom Ford.
If you could be any city in the world, which one would you be and why?
Bahia, Brazil for not more than 3 months for the culture, colours, food, peace, isolation, heritage, beautiful people = inspiration for great creations.
Which movie or novel character would you like to dress?
Oh man, Daniel Craig as James Bond.
What is Mozambique’s best kept secret?
Its private islands, many international celebrities fly straight to some of the world’s best private islands hidden in Mozambique.
A XIPIXI x Asap Rocky campaign is timely, and will be timeless once it happens. I think Asap embodies a sense of timelessness and uniqueness that few young people do in our fast food/ fast fashion culture. He is also versatile, he matches the DNA of the brand. Another young gentleman in SA has a similar flair, there might some surprises soon…
Best piece of creative advice you have received?
From my long time friend and creative advisor Ricardo Pinto Jorge, through action. We discuss our ideas a lot, but to me his best advice is when he executes, it inspires me. I’m a pragmatic person, so I like it when people show me what they mean.
Shop XIPIXI’s bow ties, shorts, ties, waistcoats and robes instore!