Zaid Affas

Redefining Womenswear

Crystals are said to have holistic qualities that go deeper than their mesmerizing glitter and raw beauty; just as it is almost therapeutic to run your hands over the rough edges where the stalagmite-like protrusions jut out from the smooth, shiny mass, simply possessing certain crystals is believed to provide a bevy of positive energies and healing powers. These enigmatic stones are formed naturally through a slow, gradual process of crystallization – the transition of molecules from chaos to perfection. Designer Zaid Affas took the rough, unpolished material of merino wool and transitioned it into perfection in the form of a stunning jacket. This jacket topped off the complete look that earned him the Woolmark Prize for the U.S. finals in womenswear. Nature and his background continue to inspire him as he creates his capsule collection for the international competition.

Affas was born into design. Unlike some designers who were destined for different careers, or who might have chosen different paths to satisfy family demands, Affas transitioned organically from wanting to be an architect to wanting to be a fashion designer. Fortunately for Affas, both of his parents had interests in design. His mother instilled in him the importance of dressing well, “with elegance and taste, but never only classic.” His father, an architect, passed down his innate ability to see design everywhere and in everything. Initially, Affas had planned to follow his father’s footsteps into architecture (a field he still holds near to his heart, and would like to work in further down the road). While studying the trade at a young age, he developed an interest in fine art, which led him to enroll in the Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. Here, Affas collaborated on a series of fashion projects, which sparked his interest in fashion design. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Menswear Design, Affas ironically began working in womenswear, finding his knowledge in menswear and tailoring to be indispensable resources in womenswear.

Now based in Los Angeles, Affas has brought his international background and experiences with him to the West Coast. Born to Iraqi parents in Kuwait, he then moved with his family at a very young age to London, where he spent most of his youth. Upon starting his professional career, Affas lived in London, New York, Los Angeles, China, and Milan. When asked if his birthplace, upbringing, and residences have affected his work, Affas has an almost anthropological response. “I’m very aware of how my upbringing and birthplace have affected my work and personal aesthetic. That’s the case for anyone, our backgrounds have a profound effect on our subconscious and therefore affect our personal, creative point of view,” explains the designer. He continues, displaying a deep understanding of the human psyche: “I feel there are three main outside influences of a person’s background – family/parental upbringing, culture/society that they are brought up in, and the times/decades they grew up in.” Affas says that the pop-culture he grew up with influenced his work just as much as his parents’ influences, and this can be seen in his work. He also recognizes cultural influences that have affected his work. “Being born in Kuwait to Iraqi parents and growing up first in the Middle East then London, you take the differences and similarities in culture, societies… I feel my silhouettes and my approach to design are definitely influenced by the contrast in cultures.”

Now, based in Los Angeles, Affas harnesses his background, the influence of cultures and contrasts, and his reverence for nature to create his eponymous brand, launched in 2014. According to the Woolmark synopsis, Affas’s collection is “inspired by the irregular mix of some of nature’s purest elements, minerals, and forms. [His] collection represents attributes embodied by rutile and raw crystal. These textured materials within the collection illustrate the interesting formation of colour through time, containing the depth of time within the material/colour and its ever-changing state.” The crowning jewel of the look is the coat, made of a laminated, oxblood-red wool. Much like the product of molecules solidifying over time, the jacket has a polished quality that lends a subtle gloss to an otherwise lackluster material. The rounded silhouette perhaps borrows its shape from a chrysalis, but is constructed with the precise tailoring that Affas is known for. Much like a crystal, this statement jacket has qualities that go beyond its outwardly polished look. Currently Affas is working on creating his capsule collection for the international Woolmark competition, and if this look is any indicator, an array of raw beauty awaits us.

Text Leah Tassinari 
Photography Billy Farrell Agency & The Woolmark Company