Artistry: Artist Feature
Brave Soul Artist: Briian Dargon

January 10, 2007 Print version       Other articles by this author

Our premiere Brave Soul Artist feature for 2007 and the month of January is a young man who is living life on his own terms as an artist. Briian Dargon, designer and creator of BSIXTEE6 [B 66 for those who don't get it..lol] is a talented, creative individual whose work speaks volumes (literally) through the use of imagery and words. His clothing and accessories are not only thought provoking, but eye catching and stylish. I first met Briian last year in Atlanta during the IN THE LIFE ATL Labor Day Weekend Celebration. He had a huge amount of his clothing and work on display at the Marketplace that weekend. One of his tee shirts immediately caught my eye, and through Tim'm (who already knew Briian) we had the opportunity to talk about Brave Soul Collective and about BSIXTEE6.

BSIXTEE6 has been featured in the September 2004 issue of Japanese Vogue, Hip Hop Artist Fat Joe's "Lean Back" music video, Singer/Songwriter "Gordon Chambers, Music Producers "Quinten Harris" and "Midi Mafia", Singer/Songwriter "Cordell McClary" , Jazz Artist "Lizz Fields, Model "Mike Mitchell, " and fellow Designers "Shadowflack" and "Eboni Tankersley" of "Eyes 2 My Soul" fame.

BSIXTEE6 product has also been sold in Japan, London, Detroit, Atlanta, North Carolina, Virginia, California, Chicago as well as New York.

While we were in the process of acquiring donations for our Brave Souls UNPLUGGED raffle last fall, Briian graciously offered to donate several pieces to us. Over this past Christmas holiday in New York, I got the chance to meet with Briian again to pick up an item I'd purchased through his website. During our meeting, I proposed a Brave Soul Artist feature on Briian & BSIXTEE6. He happily accepted and so I recently sat down to discuss with him how he initially became involved in the world of fashion design, his thoughts on gay marriage, the arts, as well as his most recent personal venture, becoming a parent. Read on, and you'll get a glimpse into the mind of this talented brother.

We are honored and excited to present to you, Mr. Briian Dargon & BSIXTEE6.

You have an interesting story surrounding your entry into the world of fashion design. Can you explain how it all began for you?

Absolutely! When I think about it always seems to me as if it were yesterday. I've always been involved in fashion in some kind of way. I was in the music industry for 10 years and I did everything from being an artist to working in music publishing so there was always some aspect of that. It was September 2001, I was doing part-time temp work at an agency in New York and they were sending me to an assignment at the World Trade Center the morning of the 11th. As I was walking out the door the agency called and sent me to a publishing company in midtown, as soon as I had been shown my work area, the first plane had hit, the city was in chaos, cell phones weren't working and I couldn't reach my family to let them know I was alright. Shortly after the attacks, I was staying with a cousin of mine and another cousin asked me to go to a party. I didn't have any extra money to go out and buy something new so I just thought that I would make a t-shirt. The tee received a lot of complements and inquiries about where they could purchase it, I told them i made it, people offered money and the rest as they say is mystory. I didn't really take it seriously as a viable business until 2002.
You describe your clothing as wearable art. What was the thinking behind the creation of that term?
I grew up introverted and painfully shy and didn't speak for quite sometime after the normal age kids usually start to speak (i like to say i was observing). When creating the pieces I thought that there must be other people out there who were/are the same way, people that have difficulty starting a conversation out of fear that someone might not find them interesting. So I thought that if I could create colorful, humorous, unique and/or pop cultural phrases and designs that it would beg people viewing it to speak to those wearing it and a dialogue about whatever could begin.
As a same gender loving black man who is also an artist, particularly in the world of fashion design, how do you set yourself apart from the rest of what’s out there in terms of your work??
I'm fortunate at the moment that I'm not responsible to a corporation or investor that I would have to get permission from to make a decision about my art and that the only person i have to answer to in regards to what I create is me, therefore I can create what I feel is just as relevant to people as any of the other designers in the marketplace. I also hand-sew most of my creations which is a lost art these days and most of my pieces are one of a kind and yes! I could duplicate a piece but it would never be the same as the other piece.
What are you feelings/thoughts about gay marriage and relationships, especially as it relates to the lives of us as black gay men??
Being someone who is single, I don't know how qualified I am to answer this (gay marriage question) but my opinion is that if two individuals feel that would like to join together in a bonding ceremony of any kind, no one should have the right to say "No! They should not do that, it's wrong, blah, blah,blah"etc. If those same people who are waiving signs and signing legislature against it would put that same kind of energy into making their own families stronger, I think this country wouldn't have as manys ills as it currently does. The second part of the question regarding my thoughts on gay relationships is a little difficult for me to answer because I don't want to come off as someone who is bitter. I will say this and that is I've had some great relationships with people that I remain friends with to this day and I've had relationships with people whose only purpose was to hurt, connive, scheme, manipulate and abuse any and every situation and I realized that I created both. The bad relationships came out of the fact that I didn't know how to love me, I didn't know how to say "I don't appreciate that", I was not kind to me, I was not gentle to me, I was not my best friend, so how then could I ask someone who initially is a complete stranger to me to be that for me? Only when I began to believe that I was worthy of better and worthy of more, did I receive. Although I am single now, I am a happier person and I believe that energy attracts happiness to you....get back to me on this one, lol.
You are currently in the process of embarking on a new role as a parent. What has the adoption process been like for you thus far?
FRUSTRATING! Between the child welfare agencies, case workers (not all), friends and family (not all) who are against it, it has been a trying process. You think to yourself that all you want to do is a give a child with no home, a home, a child with no food, something to eat, shoes on their feet and clothes on their back an education and more importantly a sense of belonging and you're fighting every step of the way. The people who hold the decisions in their hands don't care (not all), they still get paid and they have kids, there is too much rhetoric and red tape and misinformation, lack of communication and I don't know how genuine they are about wanting to place these kids but through all of it, I still believe one day I will be a parent.

Can you talk to us about your decision to adopt a child as a single person? Why is parenting important to you, particularly at this point in your life?

I'm a nurturer by nature and so I've always wanted to make sure that the people in my life were okay and taken care of. My decision about wanting to be a father came at an early age but growing up in Richmond, VA, watching friends have kids before they had a life was not something that I was interested in doing. In regards to adopting as a single person, that just happens to be the way that it is. The plan was to be a parent, I was not opposed to being in a relationship while going thru the process but I hadn't met anyone who was ecstatic about it either so I knew that if I was going to do it, I needed to go ahead and do it and not wait until the "right" person came along.

BSIXTEE6 has been in existence for about four years now, what are some of the things you've learned about being an entrepreneur and having your own business? Can you talk about some of the triumphs and challenges you've faced?

This entreprenurial ride has been a trip. I think the most important thing that I've learned is that nothing is impossible if you believe. I know that that statement is so cliche' but true. When I was young I was only told that I could be anything that I wanted to be when I was being scolded and I remember it never sounding like it had one ounce of truth in it because there was no other support that made me believe it but the most important thing I held on to was that within myself I believed it. Anyone with their own business regardless of the industry will tell you that having that business is very trying and there are more than a few days you feel like giving up but you don't and you can't because you understand that the reason you have sacrificed your energy, time, relationships, finances, etc. is because you had a dream and you planted this seed and now you're watching it grow from nothing and it is indeed growing and you hope that although time waits for no one, it will wait for you. You hope that the people in your life will understand and will be there when stop to rest. You hope that your energy will somehow regenerate to allow you to do it all over again the next day and of course you hope to reap financial rewards. As I state in my bio, I am appreciative of everyone who buys something from me that I made with my own hands and it is something that they wear with pride and who are genuinely supportive either with a kind word or a referral that turns into another sale, etc. However, the flipside of that same coin is that there are those who because they don't understand the work that goes into each piece don't and can't appreciate it. There was a point where I was charging $15,20 and 25.00 for a hand-sewn t-shirt and I would still hear people complaining and I think part of that is because people are still not familiar with the name, I don't have a store and my designs are not consistant in content (I don't make 10,000 pieces of the same thing). When I first found out a piece I made was in the September 2004 issue of Japanese Vogue, I cried. Although it was one piece, I finally felt vindicated and knew that the path I had chosen was the right one so regardless to the challenges that will come, I'm doing what i'm supposed to be doing.
As a designer, particularly one whose work is hand sewn and customized for the client, what keeps you motivated and driven to create new pieces?
I think the fact that I genuinely love what I do keeps me motivated. We live in a big world so I'm not confined in terms of where I can draw my inspiration from and in doing that I'm also learning more and more about not only my own culture but other cultures as well and what I'm learning is that we are more alike than we are different (laughter is laughter, sex is sex, belief is belief and anger is anger).
Personally and professionally, what things do you intend to accomplish over the next 5 years?
Personally: In five years I would like to be able to say I've been in a five year relationship,lol but seriously I'd like to continue nurturing some of my other passions like photography, writing and horses, maybe try my hand at acting and hopefully be a parent (ya'll keep your fingers crossed for me). Professionally: I'd like to have a mass produced BSIXTEE6 line in department stores and boutiques across the country while still maintaining my one of a kind pieces for special clients.

How has the HIV/AIDS epidemic impacted, influenced or affected your life over the past 25 years?

One story is one too many but I have watched several people in my life lose theirs to HIV/AIDS related illnesses and I have watched the devastation it has left behind and the complacency that people have developed because of it. Although there is tons of information out there, obviously it is still not registering as the statistics continue to rise. The issue is much larger though then a pamphlet or a public service announcement, I think it goes back to the statement I made earlier about loving and respecting yourself enough to make use of the information that is presented to you. I think it is a generational lack of commitment to ourselves and each other that prevent us from making the right decision when it comes to our health. We have grown up and been fed so many myths and half-truths about healthcare and medicines and responsibility to and for our own bodies that we neglect ourselves and then we allow others to neglect us as well.

What does 2007 hold for Bsixtee6?

SELL, SELL,SELL. Making myself and BSIXTEE6 more visible this year and hoping to open a little boutique or kiosk as well as shooting for the 2008 BSIXTEE6 Calendar.

For more on Briian Dargon and BSIXTEE6, please visit: http://www.bsixtee6.com