Photography: Paul Cocks
Runway Ramp Photography: Ramp SDR
Copy: Afrika Bogatsu

From three Cape Town-born and raised guys bonded by friendship and a shared experience of neglect in the form of father absenteeism, came IXSNAY. 

Mphikeleli Mthethwa, Thandekile Rwexwana and Mthunzi Ntlebi have been friends for a long time, so much so that they’re more like cousins. As with friendships and family, tensions and frustrations arise, especially when you’re working together. 

“We’ve had our dramas and misunderstandings but it’s nothing that it’ll ever break us up,” says Mphikeleli with the rest of the group nodding in agreement. “We never let it get the better of us.” At the end of the day, whatever happens, Ixsnay needs to continue growing no matter what. ”

The strength of the trio’s honest and sincere friendship is really what brings them together.  

“Last year, we took a bit of a break to contemplate and decide whether we really wanted to do this thing. We were holding each other back and slowing down the process and progress by talking instead of doing the work.” They felt that it was important to take some time off to reflect and recommit before their lax energy affected the future of the brand.

They came back from that break with a better attitude and a banging 25 look collection for SAMW this year.  

To work successfully together, everyone has an equally important role to play. Mthunzi is the creative director, responsible for coming up with concepts that build the brand and deciding how, where and when the brand is portrayed. “I didn’t study marketing but I know how to put the brand out there.” With his outgoing personality, you can consider him the face/spokesperson of the brand. 

While Mphikeleli’s the executive director, long-term strategic thinker, ensuring that everything they do know doesn’t hurt the brand in the future. “I always try to smell the fish away from the shit.”

And Thandekile is in charge of the accounts numbers, deciding how much they price their garments for, for them to reach their break-even point and make a profit.  

In the same way that they all have a specific role, they each have a unique sense of style which they bring to the table when it comes to designing pieces for the label. “Mthunzi goes all the way out, he does it for those who want to flood the feed on Instagram, while I reign in it, I keep it to the n*ggas who wanna go to the club and straight to work afterwards. Thandekile does it for the quiet guys who get the huns,” 

Half of the materials used in this collection were imported from Egypt by Mthunzi’s late mother. The collection took roughly 6 months, from inception to production. 

They describe Ixsnay as high-end streetwear. “There’s a lot of kids in our community who feel like they wanna have a certain look, be it Gucci or Zara but they can’t afford it.” Ixsnay makes quality high-end streetwear looks that that can stand up to international standards in terms of but also be accessible. 

“You can walk around with confidence, feeling Gucci without having to buy Gucci.” 

The custom made-to-order pieces aren’t made for those that just dress to impress but rather to feel comfortable in what they’re wearing. The trio wants to use Ixsnay to challenge international brands “We want to cut out the international brands and have people start investing in high-end local brands.”

They’re determined to work hard to prove themselves in the city. Which isn’t as easy as one would think, especially coming from Gugulethu and Khayelitsha. With the city bowl, the streetwear hub, being somewhat inaccessible and competitive, it takes more patience, passion and a lot of hard work, which is something the trio isn’t daunted by. Having raised and put together the money without any external financial help. 

They’re not concerned about competition as they have a clear vision for the future of their brand. 

When asked about the future and what we can expect from Ixsnay they confidently say getting an online store is a priority and they also plan on opening a brick and mortar retail space in the next couple of years. 

The choice of having a store in their hometown speaks to the pride and loyalty they have for their community. “We can’t do it anywhere else, this is where we get our energy and support.”