The commercial begins with Tame Impala’s blaring beats over a cinematic drone shot soaring above Portland’s Eastbank Esplanade. A young, fit man comes into view: jogging, bouncing off steps in slow motion, his direct-to-camera gaze alternating with quick cuts of his clothing. From the presentation to the pieces themselves, the effect puts to shame any idea you’ve previously held of “activewear.” Double welt pockets that won’t rip. Jackets fit to precision with every seam waterproofed. Even the T-shirts are color blocked and wrap the body better than your average workout kit. It all speaks to a level of professionalism you don’t often see in a two-year-old brand.
But menswear label Dyne isn’t your typical start-up. Owner and head designer Christopher Bevans, 44, spent the last 20 years bouncing between New York and Portland, building a career that would make any corporate headhunter salivate. He worked for two and a half years as the creative director for Pharrell Williams’s Billionaire Boys Club label, during which time the company’s profits quadrupled to hit $20 million. In 2003, a few months into his time as the senior designer for Jay Z’s Rocawear line, the bosses approached him with a project: the label had just signed a young man named Kanye West, who was into fashion, and Bevans was sent out on tour to help foster that talent. The two became roommates on the tour bus, spending long drives between cities at a table with laptops and paper sketching out ideas, with Bevans mentoring West through the design process.
“Kanye is a very prolific creative person, as you know, but he can really draw,” Bevans says of the process that ultimately led to West’s one-of-a-kind stage outfits. “He is an illustrator, and he’d sketch his ideas out, which we would then send back to the Rocawear offices for them to sample.” Nike took notice of the West wear and persuaded Bevans to come out to Portland, entrusting him with projects for the likes of LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, while he also handled all of the brand’s Air Force 1 apparel.
It’s quite the résumé. And Bevans adds other experience that elevates his aesthetic sensibility: he’s tailored slick custom suits for the likes of John Legend, Daryl Hall, and—most dapper of them all—Prince. The Old World techniques of tailoring might seem mismatched to athletic wear’s comfort, but Bevans simply combined the two. The winner is comfort wear. “I’m not afraid of a seam or a princess line,” he says. “It gives it shape, it’s ergonomic and fits the body. Marry that with technical fabric and really good construction, and you’ll have a fantastic line.”
This fusion of fashion and function is clearly working, and Bevans’s team is steadily growing: The single-named Shaka, a senior designer and coworker from both Nike and New York days, has come on board to join a team of eight in the Portland office, two at a factory in Hong Kong, and another in Dyne’s high-end Manhattan showroom. Until this year, the only stores carrying Dyne were sprinkled through Japan and Hong Kong, with one new downtown Portland shop, Le Court, holding down the American fort. But things are quickly changing, with such major chains as Barneys and American Rags on the horizon, plus Dyne’s first order from Dubai.
Radically different markets, but Bevans sees the tie that binds: a consumer focus on everyday, active life. “Our customer is about the active lifestyle and about their health and wellness,” he says, “but also loves fashion.”