Yesterday, during Florence's bi-annual Pitti Uomo menswear tradeshow, designer Christopher Bevans was awarded with The Woolmark Company's inaugural Innovation Award for his submission, an '80s-inspired technical snowboarding wardrobe, done under his brand DYNE.
“It's an honor,” says Bevans in a statement issued to the press. “We pushed so hard and to be recognized for this is incredible. It doesn't get more special.”
That recognition is a long time coming. Christopher Bevans is mind-numbingly busy. In addition to DYNE, he also serves as the creative director for Beast Mode, the lifestyle clothing brand of NFL running back Marshawn Lynch. Before that, he has designed for big names like Diddy, Kanye West, Pharrell, and A$AP Rocky, as well as Nike, adidas, and Under Armour. Now, it's time for Bevans to get some well-deserved limelight of his own.
The child of two immigrants, Bevans was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness in Rochester, New York. He became familiar with suiting from a young age, having to wear nothing short of a tie to school. That familiarity meshed with the creative leanings of his family (his father was a designer for Eastman Kodak and his grandmother was a dressmaker) saw him apprentice for a mall-shop tailor from an early age learning his ways around the insides of pieces he routinely wore.
“For me it was really a turning point because I was working for someone who was really in menswear,” Bevans says over lunch in Manhattan. He admits he had tried his hand at making parachute pants before the apprenticeship.
The young designer rounded out that apprentice experience studying textiles at FIT, eventually landing a job at Mood Fabrics in the early 2000s, a hub for New York City's then-booming Garment District. American reality television addicts may know it as the place where Project Runway contestants source their materials.
“The family there really took me under their wing and showed me the business of fashion,” he says. He learned the ropes and met with many pattern makers, seamstresses and designers like the designers behind acclaimed fashion label Proenza Schouler, whom he managed fabric for. He planned to make his fashion debut in 2001 with his first show, but canceled it after the events of September 11. Fortunately for Bevans, Diddy came calling soon after.
“I wanted to learn about corporate design a little bit more, so while I was at Mood, I was helping one of Puff’s assistants put fabric together for one of his first shows,” Bevans says. His first gig was as a designer on Sean John’s high-end denim line, Blue. He showed up with his briefcase-like portable sewing machine in tow. “They hired me on the spot, and my portfolio was just some of my sketches and the samples I was making while I was at Mood.”
The position was integral to Bevans’ development. He perfected his technical design abilities under head designer Todd Hoover. Though he was already a bit familiar with the process, which essentially provides the blueprint for how a garment is created, his time at Sean John taught him how to digitize the process. He also met Maxwell Osborne and Dao-Yi Chow, the future designers of Public School. At the time, Osborne was a design intern and Sean John, and Chow worked in marketing.
Bevans' next big break came when Rocawear's then-VP of Sales, Theresa Scott, set up a meeting between him and Damon Dash.
“I showed him everything I had been working on and he was like: ‘You’re hired,’” says Bevans.
Dash put him to work with a new artist he had just signed: Kanye West. Bevans was assigned to follow West throughout the The College Dropout tour with John Legend. He began working on designs for West's unreleased streetwear label, Pastelle.
“I was kind of a ghostwriter for him, just trying to help that brother bring his ideas to life,” Bevans says of him and West's relationship. Plenty of West's ideas struck him shortly after he finished a set, and right when he got offstage.
Bevans eventually found himself at Nike, where he was named head of Urban Apparel. He was also instrumental in bringing Kanye West into Nike's fold. While at Nike, Bevans also designed for LeBron James' first run with the Cleveland Cavaliers, created the logo and brand identity for tennis star Roger Federer, and even got to collaborate with iconic designer Tinker Hatfield.
Not long after, Bevans linked up with another super-stylish artist—Pharrell. For two and a half years, he served as the creative director at Billionaire Boys Club. Then came the call from Kanye West to join him at adidas, an opportunity that did not pan out well.
“I don’t think they were really prepared — I don’t know if they knew who they were dealing with you know?” Bevans said of the project that West called him to take on Christmas Day 2013. “I think once some time passed they realized they had to get more resources around him because at the time we were at Milk Studios set up with sewing machines but that’s not how you build a brand. YEEZY was all he wanted from the beginning, his own category.” But by that time Bevans had left, his relationship with Yeezus strained, and was intent on launching his own brand.
DYNE launched in 2014. During the Fall/Winter 2017 season, Bevans' showed his collection at New York Fashion Week: Men's, in a futuristic venue sponsored by Samsung. Turns out that theme perfectly complemented Bevans' design aesthetic of technical materials meshed with everyday utility.
“We treat the active everyday lifestyle like a sport,” Bevans says of DYNE, which is stocked in several Barneys locations, but sees 70 percent of its business done in Asia. “I can’t compete with Nike, adidas, and Under Armour when it comes to sport—but I will tell you that everybody is active. That’s where I can compete.”
DYNE's entry for the 2017/2018 Woolmark Prize—an international fashion competition that awards designers who can implement merino wool in a way that defines the future—actually looked to the past. Bevans learned how to snowboard in the 1980s, and looked to those retro styles for a colorblocked navy blue and heather gray snowboarding suit, with brighter contrast details and more technical materials like water-resistant wool. He even implemented an NFC chip in the jacket, allowing the wearer to be tracked in emergency situations like avalanches. It's a design detail that could literally save a life.
That competitive spirit is paying off—and getting Bevans on the right radars in the fashion world. Julie Gilhart, an industry figure known for nurturing emerging talent like Proenza Schouler, Alexander Wang, and Public School (among many others), is one of his mentors. And before going on to yesterday's victory, he won the U.S. regional Woolmark Prize, besting Death to Tennis and three other menswear labels. If 2017 is anything to go by, then it's evident that Bevans is just getting started.
For more Fashion Week goodness, check out why London's best-dressed prove the side bag trend isn't going anywhere.