Meet the designer of cult menswear brand 6876
Kenneth Mackenzie has been doing things in his own way and at his own pace since 1995. 6876 isn't about fashion and seasons, it's all about designing and making timeless quality and functional garments. Based out of his studio in London's brutalist Brunswick Centre, the Scottish designer continues to create products in his own style – one that blends his wide range of influences with modernist design principles. We caught up with Kenneth at this studio to discuss his wide range of influences and reflect on 6876's impressive journey so far.
Let’s go back to the start. For those who know little about 6876, can you tell us where the name came from and how the brand originally started in 1995?
The brand name came from the idea of not wanting it to be egotistical and have me as the focus, that’s why I chose against naming it after myself, it's always been about the product first above marketing and hype.
The 68 comes from my fascination for the Paris student riots of May 1968. The ideals, the free thinking and anti-authoritive spirit struck me deeply and it’s something I‘ve always tried to carry over into my work. The 76 is from the year 1976, the birth of Punk. Basically the brand is an ethos & mentality that exists for itself and likeminded people.
You’ve now been running the brand and doing things your way for nearly 30 years, which is a great achievement for an independent menswear brand. You mention [in an interview for Inventory Magazine in 2014] a pivotal time in the early noughties where you decided to shift direction and business model, stop following the two season model, and do things at your own pace working directly with your growing customer base. What are some of the key learnings from the 6876 journey so far?
Well I've obviously not learnt enough but I've come to realise in a fatalistic way that for better or for worse, the brand is what it is and the main thing is that without its customers and supporters it's nothing.
You make everything in the UK which allows you to focus on quality and gives you greater flexibility by producing locally. What are some of the other benefits/challenges?
We make in Portugal and the UK but there was a conscious feeling post Brexit to make more in the UK. It's however just not feasible as the levels of professionalism and the expensive prices in the UK are increasingly difficult to work with. 6876 works with manufacturers that understand the brand and we are very grateful to be working with them. What you have to realise is that these suppliers are constantly under pressure to make larger orders for much bigger brands; they choose to make products like 6876 because they want to, I really respect that.
You’re originally from Dundee and have recently been taking inspiration from Scottish brutalist churches, something I thought only existed in Japan…! Can you tell us a bit more about that?
I regularly work with Scottish fabric suppliers and manufacturers so I wanted to tie in the idea that 6876 is based in a brutalist building (The Brunswick Centre, London) and that the churches/schools designed by Gillespie, Kidd and Coia in Scotland have a connection and aren't really celebrated as much as they should be.
You showed us your favourite piece of clothing in your archive - a white smock by Sabotage - a small German brand from the 80's with very little documentation, which has influenced a lot of designers. Someone once called it ‘German engineering on steroids’. How did you get hold of that piece and why do you love the brand so much?
I discovered Sabotage in the early 90's. At the time, Paul Harvey designed for them, I met the brand at trade shows multiple times, and before I started 6876 I contemplated becoming their agent in the UK.
Everything for me starts with design and technical aspects. I love the way they utilised the influences of military clothing, snowboarding and the German music scene to create this modernist brand, which felt way ahead of its time. This white hooded jacket is one of my favourite pieces in the archive.
You’ve built a dedicated and loyal following through your own label but also working and collaborating with a number of like-minded individuals and brands such as Cash Ca, Clarks, Fred Perry and Rohan. How important is it to collaborate and why?
Collaborations for me have to make sense, there has to be a connection and mutual appreciation. Also, each part of the collaboration has to bring something to the table or otherwise it just doesn't work. For me the Rohan and Cash Ca projects were the best and most enjoyable.
Your next collaborative project is with Arpenteur. How did it come about? Can you give us more details about the product/collection?
Arpenteur contacted me years ago, the guys came over to visit the studio and we kept in contact always remaining on good terms. One day I just thought that it could be a good idea to collaborate and thankfully they felt the same way. We are producing a jacket, t-shirts and prints but the whole method and process is really enjoyable as we share common influences and ways of presenting our product which customers will see in the marketing of the products.
The jacket is a workwear take on a semi tailored jacket and was a design from maybe ten years ago that I never put into production so we have developed and perfected it in France. The collaboration will be launching in the coming weeks...
You recently launched a Crowdfunder to ensure that through the support of your community, 6876 remains 6876 - Stage one has met its goal. Can you tell us your plans, what’s next for the brand?
The current climate is tough and has been since Brexit and Covid which means it's harder and harder to run this type of brand. We were subject to various offers to invest in the brand but ultimately the deals were just not attractive enough and involved the loss of too much control so I decided to flip it around and see if the real people that make this brand work would want to help /get involved. Initially a little like when we started pre-order I was wary but the reaction was so positive that ultimately it was a good experience. The plan is to develop the product offering and reconnect with the US / Japanese markets which we are already working on as they are receptive markets for the brand.
Shop Kenneth Mackenzie's pre-owned and deadstock pieces from the extensive 6876 archive.
Photography by Dan Watson.