Kenneth Mackenzie is no ordinary designer. Purposely directing his 6876 brand on a different course than most modern fashion labels, 6876’s small trans-seasonal drops, with carefully thought out collaborations, always remain loyal to the brand’s roots. 6876 doesn’t do wholesaling, he believes it can displace a certain aspect of desirability from a product. 6876 are traditional.
As often is the case when a brand grows too big too quickly, the initial reason and purpose for the set up can become somewhat skewed. That’s how Mackenzie saw it and why he decided to radically scale back his label and take his brand down an alternate route. From day one 6876 has had support from a small, loyal fan base and since 1995 – 6876’s birth year – the strict methodology has always been ‘quality over quantity’ – something Mackenzie is inherently proud of.
Now, though, the Scottish designer is delving into unknown territory. His newest venture, Modern Studies, is going at the industry from another angle, with new thoughts and visions and intends to appeal to a wider, more versatile audience – all while in-keeping with 6876’s traditional brand ethos.
Modern Studies is more-or-less a sub-brand of 6876 and intends to push social and political boundaries. Mackenzie even admits that he got the term name from an old sociological and political study. Here, Proper Mag catches up with the one of menswear’s finest creators whilst he was travelling through a post-Olympics Brazil, and manages to discuss the thinking behind the project, the message he’s trying to convey and what exactly Modern Studies is:
TW: Hi Kenneth, tell us a little about Modern Studies and what the concept is behind it…
KM: Originally the idea of Modern Studies was based on the idea that we needed to add interest to our 6876 website and create a more magazine, immediate-news kind of flow to it. So the thought was to ask various photographers and artists to contribute their work to the website. Then the idea of actually creating a product came quite naturally – although it was never intended initially. With this we aim to create a sort of sub-brand within 6876. The idea is to use their images and artwork on garments, all the while keeping it very brand-relatable, yet slightly different with each release.
TW: How are you choosing the artists and photographers you work with? Is there a specific aspect or audience you’re trying to reach?
KM: The main concept is that there has to be some depth to it. There has to be something unique and telling about it. It’s also about giving an outlet and a platform to the artists and photographers, one that they may not normally have. There’s no specific inspiration as to why we might use a certain contributor and, really, I think that’s the beauty of it.
TW: Why now?
KM: It’s quite a difficult time in the fashion industry, mostly due to economic factors and it’s not really helped by the constant discounting, especially by the larger stores. It eats away at the desirability of product. That’s one of the reasons 6876 has never gone down that route. Creating new products is always healthy.
TW: Will there be a running theme with every Modern Studies release, as in the type of garments?
KM: The first collection will be quite small, a jacket, a sweatshirt, chino and some printed t-shirts – but with more accent on the branding, although still keeping the quality high. Keeping with the 6876 rhetoric. In terms of the type of contributor, as I said, it’ll differ. It’s exciting.
TW: Without sounding too pretentious or deep, will any of the pieces have a social commentary? Will there be more to the pieces than meet the eye? A message?
KM: Well the name Modern Studies comes from a Scottish O Grade which involves sociological and political study, so the aim is to present artists that have a strong viewpoint. Otherwise it would be just a “brand carrying” product – and that’s really not what I’m aiming for.
TW: Why not release this solely under the 6876 name? Why separate?
KM: The branding internally hasn’t been 100% decided, really only the concept has been decided. But the reason to differentiate and create a kind of sub-brand is to define a more accessible product category rather than a separate range. It’s still a 6876 product and people will know that.
TW: Modern Studies intends to be unique, what else other than the range itself supports this?
KM: I think that it is hopefully going to really challenge the perception of 6876 as a brand and cross a few boundaries, well that’s the aim. Plus, although it’s not a new idea, work outwit the accepted channels of retain and what a brand can also sell.
Our thoughts at the moment are for each release to be done in a different location, not just in the UK. The first one will be in Manchester. But it’ll be a pop-up style sort of thing, in keeping with the uniqueness and different approach Modern Studies looks at, though. And then hopefully in the future, we’ll continue to run pop-ups throughout the world, all the while getting more artists involved and ultimately creating a very tight distribution network.
The idea at the moment is to create a unique t-shirt with Proper Mag, plus another graphic t-shirt. Then we’ll have the new 18oz Canvas weave Ventile Brecon jacket for sale, as well as other various artefacts: books and prints from the artists and photographers etc. It’s an exciting time.