Christopher Bevans was at the height of Sean John, Yeezy before it was Yeezy and directed Nike’s urban apparel line. He’s one of the fashion industry’s most sought-after experts for brand design. We wanted to hear his story.
Read our interview with Christopher to learn what future he rallies around, how he sees fashion-tech impacting consumption and why he got passionate about sustainability before it was a buzzword.
What made you initially get into the fashion industry?
Christopher Bevans: It’s been in my blood. My grandmother was a renowned New York City dressmaker. She made gowns for dignitaries and friends. She had her own shop, and since early youth we’d accompany her to fabric stores regularly. Playing hide-and-go-seek under cutting tables and running around sewing machines was our norm. I didn’t quite know what I was looking at at that time, but I knew that grandma would make our clothes. That instilled not just a spark for creativity, but an appreciation for making quality things.
I love that pass-down. So as a kid you learned sewing, tailoring, textiles… you even had your own business. Your curiosity, work ethic and fearlessness lend well to becoming a sought-after expert. What guides the types of projects you work on?
Christopher Bevans: Without sounding like an old-school vet, I truly have to be interested in what the brand product is. First, the team that’s leading it has to be passionate about their mission. It’s ok if they don’t know 100% what they’re doing, but they have to be open to advice or expertise that I bring. I’m equally learning about that specific culture or brand, and it helps us cover more ground if we’re all on the same wave.
Yes, it’s easier to get more meaningful work done that way. As a craftsman, have you noticed a shift in the type of crafts we are learning?
Christopher Bevans: I’d say yes and no. I see a whole generation of young designers coming up that are amazing; that have their own point of view, and it’s also exciting how they use modern technology to tell their story. We still need architects, carpenters, and masons. But with such a digital backdrop, we’re seeing a new type of commodity being crafted. Things that are designed with microchips and processors. You can go online for supplies and make your own rudimentary prototypes, which I appreciate the ingenuity that goes into it. I appreciate any fine craftsmanship.
The apparel you create nails form and adds purpose to the garment. Whether for Beast Mode, Spyder Korea, or DYNE you create science-driven style. Were you always interested in merging tech and fabric to enhance what we wear?
Christopher Bevans: I also aim to design with a purpose. I don’t just slap details on a garment for the sake of it, but rather look at it as solving a problem. So, that would inform the kind of materials that I select, what kind of silhouette they’re implemented into, angles of lines, zippers and pockets; so it’s probably safe to say that it’s all considered.
It’s so thoughtful and considered. What technologies have you really excited right now? What potential do you see?
Christopher Bevans: I like the idea of disrupting retail through technology. The idea of purchasing garments through scanning. We should be able to use our cell phones to scan-and-shop, scanning touch points on clothing that have NFC (near-field communication) chips embedded, that our routed to Google Pay, Apple Pay, or another checkout. Imagine walking down the street, and you see that somebody’s wearing a cool jacket that you’d like to buy, but you don’t necessarily have time to go to the store it was purchased at. You scan the jacket, purchase, and perhaps the jacket-wearer is incentivized. There’s a company called Blue Bite that is leading the charge on this in the consumer product space.
But you’re not just into futuristic tech, your focus on sustainability is forward-thinking as well. What initially directed your focus on sustainable design?
Christopher Bevans: I’ve had the privilege of traveling the world and spending time in different factories, mills, production houses and sample rooms. One thing that always stood out to me, was the amount of materials that were being wasted, how much pollutants that go into the product, and the lifespan of inferior-made products. I think it’s a culmination of all of those things that sparked an idea to head in a direction that was economical and sustainable. It’s a journey to mine through all of the different potential partners that want to sell you something and get your business. But when you build a relationship with a production partner that is practicing the same values, it brings excitement to every garment made. It just feels like you’re doing something right.
How do you define sustainability as it relates to the fashion industry?
Christopher Bevans: Sustainability means that we’re paying close attention to the complete process of building products. I’ve yet to meet a company yet that’s 100% sustainable, but I do believe that you can pick a segment of your operation and do the right things for mankind and the environment. I believe upcycling is a smart approach, which means reusing existing materials that you may already own in your warehouse, or in other mills. I believe in quality over quantity, building long-lasting products. I believe in staying away from plastics in materials, and looking to natural fibers that are biodegradable over time. This is a journey that I didn’t quite know that I embarked on, but I like the conversations that brands are having and how they’re looking to design to help lead the charge.
What is your approach to balancing the production of fresh looks with a sustainability initiative?
Christopher Bevans: I think the challenge of design is to do things in an efficient way. I touched on it earlier, but utilizing existing materials and designing into them is an excellent start and challenges my creativity; because that would mean the fabrics already have their color, they have their personality, and it’s up to me to build cohesive collections. Essentially, reducing steps; reducing travel time for fabric, dyeing, weaving. Utilizing backstock fabric that takes up space in mills that you can actually get a great price on because they’ve probably been sitting there collecting dust.
Brands are increasingly interested in becoming more sustainable, but many struggle on where to start. What is one tangible change you’d recommend they make first?
Christopher Bevans: First, they have to look at their supply chain. That’s a hard one to answer, because you really have to be involved with a brand to know where they can be a bit more efficient. I find that in the supply chain is where you find a lot of unnecessary wastage.
Our society often gets criticized for our short-sightedness. We build more four-year plans and less hundred-year plans, put on more band-aids and less behavior shifts. What future do you rally around?
Christopher Bevans: I think in the US we love the smell of newness, and that just feeds our desire to consume. I think we have to re-educate ourselves to what it means to be a responsible consumer.
I think one brand in particular that is paying attention to what they’re doing, is Diesel. They were doing it with Pharrell Williams and his recycling initiatives. I really believe it’s up to each and every one of us to band together to let other brands know that you have to change, or we’re not going to support you. It all comes down to the dollar. If we can affect their bottom line, I promise you they will change their approach.
Can you share an experience that really taught you about yourself? What you carry with you?
Christopher Bevans: After I graduated high-school, I bought a tailor shop that did well, had existing clients, that knew me because I interned there. But once it was all mine, I had a hard time running the business because I wasn’t paying close enough attention, and I had the wrong team of people around me. I’ve learned that it’s truly about who you surround yourself with, when you’re building something that’s meaningful and special to you. Especially people with expertise.
Thank you for your time. Anything else you want to share?
Christopher Bevans: I thank you for this opportunity to talk more about my journey. I look forward to working more with you, and seeing how we can change the game.
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