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Walking through the street of any major German city these days, it’s hard to overlook the colorful sweatpants, crewnecks, or tank tops with a subtle 6PM stitching. Worn by the young generation of German streetwear enthusiasts, as well as both national and international musicians and celebrities, the pieces show the influence of one of the most exciting and rising German streetwear brands at the moment – 6PM.
Founder Achraf Ait Bouzalim, who started 6PM in 2016, has become a sort of idol to his fans. He's created a community around himself and the brand – kids wants to be like Achraf, and they want to dress like him too. During the brand's pop-up tour, Achraf could be seen surrounded by vast crowds of his fans, celebrated like a pop star. If people are this excited to see a streetwear designer, it definitely speaks to how influential the brand is in the German landscape.
The story of Achraf and 6PM is yet another example of the development we saw in the fashion industry over the past few years and what can be called the “democratization of fashion.” When Virgil Abloh turned the fashion industry upside down as an outsider, he inspired a whole new generation of young creatives and broke up the conservative interpretation of the term creative director: You don’t need to be trained at any of the renowned fashion schools to start a successful label.
Born out of the lack of access to high fashion, streetwear always held the idea of accessible clothing at its core. With these principles in mind, Achraf wants everybody to be part of the 6PM community, regardless of income or social status. He sends discount codes or even free clothing to those who might not be able to afford his pieces but also enjoys the support of some of our generation’s most prominent music industry stars. From Swiss platinum producer OZ, an early 6PM supporter, to German rappers like Yung Hurn or Reezy to international celebrities like Lil Baby or DJ Khaled, the hip-hop world loves 6PM as much as the German youth.
We sat down with Achraf to talk about the beginnings of 6PM, the importance of community, and what role a Drake song played in the brand’s success.
Can you please introduce yourself and 6PM to the people who don't know you yet?
Hi, my name is Achraf. I am 26 years old. My parents are from Casablanca in Morocco. I was born and raised in Frankfurt am Main, where I still live. Here in Frankfurt, I also created 6PM. I started the brand during my studies. I was in the full preparation phase for the brand, so I was very busy with the foundation. You don't start a brand like that overnight. When 6PM was up and running, I dropped out of my studies and concentrated fully on the brand.
What made you decide to start your own brand?
When I first toyed with the idea, I was still relatively young, about 19 or 20. Of course, you don't primarily think about founding a brand that will become super successful. That was never the intention at the time — about six or seven years ago. For me, it was just passion. I have always loved buying and styling clothes myself. When everyone was still being dressed by their parents, I definitely didn't want to do that, and I always chose what I wore myself. And then, eventually, I got to the point where I thought how cool it would be to wear my own hoodie. In the beginning, it was really just about wanting to wear my own pieces. I had no idea what was actually behind starting a brand and the scale of it.
Who or what inspired you most in the beginning?
In the very beginning, if we're really talking about around 2016, I was clearly inspired by YEEZY. If you look at my first collection, there's no branding on it at all yet, either.
Where did the name 6PM come from?
At the time, I was always looking for captions from song lyrics for my Instagram posts. I wanted a name everyone could remember and immediately know what it meant. Adding up to that, finding a name where the Instagram handle was still accessible wasn't so easy. While searching my playlist, I found Drake's song "6PM in New York". That's how the name came about.
When you look back on the journey from the first ideas to today, what were important milestones for you personally?
Clearly, the early contact with OZ, who supported us from the beginning. Through gambling, a good friendship developed with him until we said at some point that we would do something together. Then in 2019, when the first investor came on board, I didn't always have to look left and right where I could borrow money for the production. That helped me a lot to focus more on the creative side.
In the same year came our first pair of track pants. At that time, I was looking for baggy nylon pants. To make the pants as variable as possible for all stylings, we made them adjustable with Velcro. That gave us a lot of hype, and we sold out the whole collection for the first time — in just five minutes. Another important point was the deal with About You, which turned the one-man show into a company with the right team and structures.
What makes 6PM unique in your eyes, and how do you explain its success?
6PM is super close to the community, be it in exchange or just general customer satisfaction. I think there's hardly a more familiar brand in the streetwear sector.
As the founder, you are also a kind of identification figure for your customers. To what extent are you still involved in the creative processes? What are your current tasks at 6PM?
The creative process around the collections is all under my control. I'm actually involved in all processes, from campaigns to the warehouse and the supply chain. Everyone on the team is always in close contact with me.
Let's come back to the community. How important are the community to 6PM and you personally?
The community is vital to our survival. The fans are an integral part of this brand. I would say, after me, it's maybe the most important part. Especially with our pop-ups, you could see how the community also connected with each other, and people with the same interests could meet. That was very nice to see that people could exchange and find friendships over the mutual interest in clothing.
The community also includes some musicians, such as Lil Baby. What influences does music have on the design process?
Music is super important to the brand and me. The designs are also very rap/hip-hop based. And when the first big artists wore my stuff at the very beginning, it was a cool feeling. In the meantime, many of them have also become friends.
What's next? Where is the journey going for 6PM?
We definitely want to have an impact on Germany like Stüssy or Palace, for example. Of course, that won't happen overnight, but we're aiming for that goal, and we're confident we can do it.
The 6PM collection will drop on the Highsnobiety shop, September 16 at 6pm. Shop it here