If you're a follower of modern day street style or the red carpets, you've likely seen the designer Zaid Affas's work before. Priyanka Chopra, Kendall and Kylie Jenner, and Gigi Hadid are just a few of the stars that have worn his gowns, tailored separates and even long, sweeping maxi coats. The British designer studied at the prestigious Central Saint Martins before holding design positions at PORTS1961 and Ralph Lauren. Now L.A. based, he's been at the helm of his namesake brand since 2014 and pulls inspiration from the juxtaposition of organic shapes and urban aesthetics.
If you haven't heard his name yet - Affas will be put under the bright spotlight as he competes for the International Woolmark Prize in just a few days at Pitti Uomo in Florence. Chosen among 65 young designers in the categories of womenswear and menswear, Zaid will present alongside other labels, such as the Korean fashion favorite Kye. Previous winners include the now very well known Gabriela Hearst (2017) and Tanya Taylor (2016.) Below, we got an exclusive look inside the designer's studio as he prepares for the competition and chatted with him about Instagram, fabric manipulation and L.A.
What's the inspiration behind your collection for the Woolmark Prize competition?
The international Woolmark Prize is a very special competition as the core of it is about a specific yarn and material, merino wool. With that in mind I researched what can represent the purity, core, and raw form of material and came to the conclusion at the base of everything is elements, minerals and forms. Raw Crystal, Rutile (a precious mineral), natural weathered textures, natural formations became the concept of the collection.
What does it mean for your brand to participate in the Woolmark Prize?
On a personal level, I'm very honored to be part of the history of the Woolmark Prize, what it stands for, and with it's inaugural winners Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Largerfeld being an inspiration throughout my career. As a designer and how I work, this is a challenge I was extremely excited to take on as fabric is always my starting point of any collection. You have to respect your materials to do them justice. The research process in showing merino wool in new innovative and unconventional ways is important to illustrate to the judges, industry, and the public. As a brand it means a lot of us to be exposed to such an important group of industry professionals, to gain the exposure through the Woolmark Company network and to have the support of both is invaluable to an emerging brand.
What are some interesting ways you've manipulated fabrics in your work?
So many ways! All the fabrics and even belts and shoes are of at least 50% to 100% merino wool in this collection. The collection is layered in contrasting textures, of laminated wools, textured abstract jacquards, ultra stretch suiting, shirting and knit wools, 'fur' look wools and more.
Are unusual textures important to your aesthetic, why or why not?
Definitely, unusual textures are a core part of all my collections. The continuous thread in all my work is pure design, which is material, form, shape, construction. I minimize color to allow the layering of textures to be the focus, and allow the sculptural forms of the garments to be realized to their best through the right material and texture. Material and form have go hand in hand. Also when I do color it usually is a representation of unusual texture rather than just a color, for example a metallic color or a distressed color.
How has Instagram influenced your work?
In regards to design it's a natural personal process for me, which involves fabric research and development, inspiration through art, architecture, music, social issues, etc. As a designer you have to be relevant, but I'm not trend driven and don't use Instagram for that. I do, however, use Instagram for research, inspiration, interesting links to articles as I would with the internet or even better libraries.
How does being based in L.A. impact your work?
I'm very inspired in Los Angeles. I love and appreciate both natural and man made beauty, even more the mix of them together. Los Angeles definitely embodies both. The light, mountains, vegetation and the contrasting mixture of architecture, be it art deco, mid century, European retro, modern in Los Angeles are all so inspiring and freeing. Also, now the art, design movement in L.A. is probably the most exciting in the world.
What's one of your signature silhouettes?
There are so many....a sculptural coat is one. I think being British and growing up in London, wearing wool coats are second nature, and developing shapes with wool (wool is probably the best yarn to sculpt with) is a personal interest. Wool coats are the best item of clothing that can allow you to develop shape, form and sculpture which is core to my work.
Who are you designing for?
A confident, professional, sophisticated, unique, understated modern women...and man in the future!