The pandemic has been especially hard for small designer brands, and Christopher Bevans is no exception.
The founder of Dyne men’s wear, who created the label in 2015 and won the International Woolmark Prize for Innovation in 2018, was forced to shutter his brand last year after his financing dried up. But earlier this week, Bevans embarked on a new career path, joining Shopify as the senior creative lead for the company’s soon-to-launch creator program.
Bevans said that once COVID-19 rocked the world, many of his retail customers, such as Barneys New York, closed and his Hong Kong-based investors were no longer in a position to support the brand financially. So Bevans made the tough decision to shutter his brand, which sought to redefine the active lifestyle category by offering a tailored street aesthetic blended with advanced textile technology.
While it wasn’t easy to abandon his hope for Dyne, Bevans learned quickly that when one door closes, another opens. He moved to a farm in Portland, Ore., and created a new business that he called Hallway, a platform to “foster community, break down barriers, collaborate and share knowledge” within the fashion industry.
“It dawned on me that the industry doesn’t have a platform to share ideas and communicate,” he said. So if a brand is struggling to find the best mother-of-pearl buttons or looking for a sustainable manufacturing facility, there was no place to ask peers for suggestions.
Enter Hallway, which Bevans described as a “mashup” of popular networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Dropbox.
The business struck a chord, the news spread quickly and Hallway started to grow. It also caught the attention of Jon Wexler, who had joined Shopify last September as vice president of its creator and influencer program.
Wexler and Bevans had a long history. Wexler had spent more than a decade at Adidas and was general manager of the Yeezy brand when he departed. Over the course of his career with the German sportswear company, Wexler had also established partnerships with Beyoncé and Pharrell Williams.
Bevans met Wexler six years ago when the designer was working with Kanye West on the Yeezy brand. (Over the course of his career, Bevans has also worked with Sean “Diddy” Combs, Jay-Z, Damon Dash and Williams, and also served as Nike’s design director for urban apparel before he created Dyne.)
When he got the call from Wexler, Bevans found out that Shopify was looking to build a business to help creators become entrepreneurs. As reported, at Shopify, Wexler is being charged with helping artists and creators scale their brands and businesses and enhance the Canadian e-commerce platform’s relationships with entrepreneurs.
A large number of their members are apparel- and accessory-based, Bevans said, “so Wex said why not come here and be our senior creative lead.”
As part of the deal, Bevans agreed to close Hallway and work with Shopify to create a new division “with the goal of democratizing fashion.” According to Bevans’ social media post, “Bringing Hallway’s vision into Shopify will let us leverage the resources, top-notch developers, incredible community and world-class technology to bring Hallway to more people across the planet and continue building the best fashion ecosystem we possibly can.”
According to a Shopify spokesperson, the creator program is “just taking shape” and is still in its “incubator phase,” but a launch is expected sometime in the near future.
Bevans said, “It’s a real statement for the industry to have a fashion designer working for a software company” and that he’s eager to roll up his sleeves and get to work.
With his new position, a relaunch of Dyne is not in the cards — at least not right now. “If I had a chance to break out the defibrillators and do Dyne again, I would, but we’re just going to let it stay dormant for now. I’ve got my hands full with this new job.”
Shopify was created in 2006 in Ottawa to provide e-commerce services to a range of companies, especially smaller independent businesses. Last year, the publicly held company powered 1.7 million businesses in more than 175 companies that had combined sales of more than $300 billion, according to its website.