By Kim Duong
Jul 19, 2017 @ 5:00 pm
Courtesy of Zach Hilty/BFA.com

The year is 1954. Two virtually unknown designers climb the stage to accept their International Woolmark fashion design prizes. You might have heard of them: Karl Lagerfeld, fresh on the scene at 21, and Yves Saint Laurent, just a mere 18 years old, have just been awarded for their exceptional creations in the coat and dress categories, respectively. Flash forward to 2017, and we’re seeing history repeat itself, except this time with emerging designers Christopher Bevans of Dyne and Zaid Affas. Readers, take note—you’ll be seeing their designs everywhere (that is if you haven’t already).

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The International Woolmark Prize U.S.A. Regional Final winners were revealed Tuesday night in New York City—Dyne for menswear and Zaid Affas for womenswear. Chosen out of a group of promising rising designers—nominees included Andrea Jiapei Li, Claudia Li, PH5, Protagonist, Death to Tennis, Kenneth Ning, N-P-Elliott, and Palmiers du Mal—Bevans and Affas are each taking home AU$70,000 plus the opportunity to compete in the prestigious international finals.

When InStyle caught up with the winners (post-announcement, mid-Oscar glow), it became clear that the awarded prize meant more than just financial funding. For Bevans, it meant a new beginning.

Courtesy of International Woolmark Prize

“I haven’t won anything like this before,” the Dyne designer confided. “Just to be recognized by people that you admire in the industry growing up and [to have them be your] mentors and colleagues—it’s truly an honor.” (Just to be clear, this year’s panel of esteemed judges included industry leaders André Leon Talley, designer Thom Browne, and InStyle’s very own Editor-in-Chief Laura Brown. No big deal.)

Bevans went on: “But at the same time, I feel that [the judges] are understanding of what's happening in the culture of sportswear. They've seen so many brands. Some live, some just don't. And they see so many amazing creative people. And for us to be in their spotlight right now, I think just the gravity of that is going to just make us better.”

Courtesy of International Woolmark Prize

On the challenge of working with wool, Bevans shared, “It just opened my eyes to another chamber of sportswear that I can dive into and carve out capsules of. And wool doesn’t have to be for fall. It could be for spring. It could be for summer. It’s just how you spin the fabric, how you treat the fabric, and how you put it together.”

Courtesy of Neil Rasmus/BFA.com

Affas agreed, “It’s a great, great yarn to use. It’s very durable. It can be very sculptural. It can be very drapey. You can do anything you like with it. But for me—the way I normally do my collections—I always want to find interesting fabrics. Not regular fabrics. So to find an interesting use of wool was really significant to do. And I enjoyed doing it, actually. I really had to do a lot of fabric research.”

Clearly, this was no easy A. But for Affas, it was his passion for the craft that kept him going. “As cheesy as it sounds, it’s obviously what makes you happy, you know? I think when you know that’s what you have to do and that’s what you enjoy doing, no matter how much time you invest doing it—that makes it okay.”

Courtesy of Zach Hilty/BFA.com

Bevans added, “It’s a ride being an entrepreneur and to put all these moving pieces together to make them work seamlessly—it can be challenging."

"It’s taken a long time to be in this position, being diligent and believing in what we’re doing. It feels like it’s starting to pay off a bit now, but it’s just the beginning … we’re just looking to continue to build the brand, to tell the story, and to stay true to what we’re about.”