Designer Chris Bevans discusses how tech sparks creativity in fashion
Fashion and tech are both fields that value creativity and adventure. Fusing fashion and technology, designer Chris Bevans recently partnered with Google for the first Google Black Fashion Founders Forum during New York Fashion Week in early 2018, followed by a collaboration with Google Cloud for Men’s Fashion Week in Paris.
In Paris, he displayed his collection on a wall made entirely of Google Pixels and hosted in the Google Cloud, exploring how a tech company and fashion designer partnerships can look like, specifically within the context of how technology can impact and elevate those underrepresented in both the fashion and the tech industries.
Bevans’ clothing line DYNE is best known for its collaborations with ASICS, Sean John, Rocawear, and Billionaire Boys Club, just to name a few. And he’s partnered with Kanye West and Pharrell Williams, among other luminaries. Style and culture aren’t the only area where Bevans experiments, though; his sportswear line uses near field communication (or NFC) technology that allows users to place their phone next to a selected garment to prompt access to information on countless features of that piece of clothing. These range from details on fabrics to fit and functionally. You can even explore DYNE’s entire catalog and philosophy from your phone, automatically, just by being proximate to his NFC-enabled clothes.
We caught up with Bevans shortly after his Paris collaboration with Google Cloud to talk about tech can accelerate the creativity of design and amplify the voices and reach of all designers.
Your sportswear company, DYNE, embraces technology not just with digital distribution, but also within the actual clothing. What was the initial impetus behind embedding NFC tags in your clothing?
It was a way to create a bridge in the retail experience. We kept exploring how to enable the tags to have an accelerated check-out feature, which could be embedded NFC in the garments, and then accessed with your Android or iPhone device, through an app. We partnered with Blue Bite as an NCF partner to build this. The goal would be you can buy that garment right on the spot from your phone. We also think this concept allows us to build community. Sales associates can scan the garment easily and immediately learn more about the brand...and they can start a conversation with customers by showing them we have some fun features embedded in the clothing.
The accelerated checkout feature is something I’m really excited about; being able to purchase a garment right on the spot. Say you’re walking down the street and you see a piece you like, and it’s like “oh, I can buy that right now by just scanning the garment.” You can see the potential in that. It’s huge.
How do you see technology influencing your design philosophy?
When I first started out designing, it was really for that fashion-conscious professional who is aware of what's going on in sportswear and culture. It's safe to say our customer is a bit more tech savvy. That person has been our muse. We’ve always been true to premium, tailored sportswear. Very clean, elevated materials, and state-of-the-art garment construction.
What’s your take on how the fashion world is embracing a variety of voices and communities...and diverse communities embracing fashion?
I like to acknowledge what Virgil [Abloh] has done in the community in his endeavors. In the Black community, we are creative, we are innovative, we are leaders. There is so much potential for us and the younger generation of Black fashion designers. I’m a firm believer in passing information to and helping the next generation to achieve their goals. I think it is really important to share our knowledge and our platforms to help those that are focused and willing to listen.
The tech world, on the other hand, is a predominantly white community. We [the Black community] will do a lot of catching up once we get in the door. I do see that in the fashion industry. Technology has leveled the conversation and empowered the Black community in general. It’s important for the tech world support the Black creative community in what we do with this technology and how we utilize it. I would like for us to continue to seek technology and have a seat at that table because that, I believe, is going to be what really powers the fashion community as it evolves.
Who inspires you?
My dad is the biggest influence on me. Coming from a Third World country with very little and going on to be an engineer at a well known company – just sharing what he learned was a big influence on me growing up. He was very technical so I really learned a lot from him on how to build things. My grandmother as well. Coming from Jamaica and setting up in New York and just making clothes. She was a seamstress.
Jack Sauma from Mood fabrics was a big influence on me during my 20s as I was trying to figure out how to build a brand, how to set pricing, and what fabrics to use... and how to approach sourcing, sample rooms, and pattern cost. All those little things you’re not thinking about. Sean Combs, Puff, was another big influence. He hired me from the aisles of a fabric store to come work for Sean John. It was special to see a Black man of his stature, and then to be a part of his early team that helped build his apparel empire. I went from being part of the very practical, systematic part of the garment industry to be part of the front end of fashion.
What are your career highlights?
Highlights for me were tipping points in my career that propelled me to that next level. Working at Mood Fabrics was a highlight for me. I met so many people and I learned so much at that time. I really immersed myself in the fabrics and learned so much first-hand. It pointed me in the direction of success. That’s a message I would like for more of us to latch onto. At Nike I learned a lot. I was able to travel the world and work with some amazing athletes that I respect. But the ultimate highlight in my career would be running my own small business and the amazing people who are here grinding with me every single damn day.
At Google, we love to talk about moonshots and taking ideas 10x. Do you have any moonshots that you can share with us?
Evolving our NFC technology and embedding this in the fibers to be able to weave it in where every garment is activated. I would also love to be at the forefront of design around reaching further into space, what astronauts would be wearing, and what space travel would look like aesthetically.
Any parting words of wisdom, especially for people starting out?
Really do the research, learn the profession that you’re diving into, take the time to surround yourself with good people that truly support you in a positive manner. And stay true to your vision and your initial gut.