The Pro Files: Designer Zaid Affas on Dressing the Social Media Generation
Fashion industry vet Zaid Affas has been designing clothes for over 20 years. He worked for label’s including Ralph Lauren and BCBG Max Azria before launching his own eponymous, L.A.-based clothing line in 2014. And if you don’t recognize his name, you’ll immediately recognize his designs.
The British designer is responsible for some of the most buzzed-about celebrity looks of 2016, dressing everyone from Kylie Jenner to Tracee Ellis Ross to Kate Hudson. And his celebrity roster continues to grow. We caught up with Affas to get a rundown of his banner year and find out what’s next.
How has social media changed the landscape of fashion and your brand in particular?
“It changed fashion in a huge way, whether positive or negative I don’t know. For a lot of designers now, thinking about social media has really influenced how they have to promote and market their brand. When I started my collection in 2014 it was really a time when Instagram started taking off and it kind of really created a dynamic I wasn’t prepared to do at the time. But I’ve learned that it’s a great way to introduce your clothes to the public and I’ve embraced it. When celebrities are seen wearing your designs on social media, the public pays more attention to it. It’s a useful tool.”
Kylie Jenner, one of the most followed stars on social media, debuted her blonde hair while wearing one of your designs. Tell us about that moment.
“I honestly think her and Monica Rose [Kylie’s stylist] did a great job with the look. Of course she looks really sexy which is what Kylie’s about. The color of that skirt and jacket combined with her platinum hair made a big impact. She looked amazing in it. The contrast is incredible. And the shape of the coat also made it edgy.”
Is that look actually made of latex?
“It’s funny. Everyone asks that. It’s actually a fabric I developed with a mill in Italy. It’s a black wool that’s been laminated with industrial lamination in several different colors, that’s why it’s shiny. And the more that you move it, the more that the colors come out and change.”
You like to play with fabrics. Where do you find inspiration to create new materials?
“I do a lot of fabric research and development with the best mills in the world. I get inspired a lot by fine art, culture, architecture and nature. My work is always representing man-made beauty and also natural beauty and that’s where it comes from. It’s based really on the purity of design. When I’m designing it’s more for shape and form and material. It’s kind of like being an architect or designing a car. It’s more about the item itself and sort of referencing a scene.”
Another big fashion moment this year was when Gigi Hadid stepped out in N.Y.C. wearing one of your white coats. It even made it on the TODAY show! What did you think of that look?
“It’s designed to be completely a maxi coat. We styled it to be skimming the floor. I think Gigi looked great. I loved the fact that she made it more casual which again, if you look at my look book, my collection is very high-end and very dressed-up in general, but I like the fact that she wore it in a very casual way in New York with sweatpants and a sweatshirt. I think she looked great in it. She gave it a whole different edge.”
There are definitely some sexy pieces in your design arsenal, like the white dress Kate Hudson wore to a Hawn Foundation fundraiser earlier this year. What do you think of all the skin-baring happening right now?
“I like to do sexy in an unconventional way. In a chicer more elegant way, and nobody’s really doing it that way. When I designed the Kate Hudson dress, I was thinking of showing off an unexpected area like the side of the body or the back of the body. There’s not cutouts in the more regular places. I truly believe, every woman wants to feel attractive. Feeling sexy can also mean being very chic and elegant and simple at the same time and that’s what I’m always trying to achieve.”
Which celebrity look this year was your favorite?
“I’m really proud of all the celebrities who wear my work, but if I had to pick one it would be Tracee Ellis Ross at the BET awards. She wore these fold over metallic pants from my collection with a great top. I know Tracee, we met briefly in Beverly Hills and she has a very fun personality, very confident and I know she’s very involved in what she wears. She knows what she wants and she chooses things with her stylist.”
That Tracee look had a disco, ’70s inspired vibe. Do you have a favorite decade to reference when you’re designing?
“When I design my collections I don’t really reference decades or periods of clothing. For me it’s more about a the design and shape. Of course, People wear things and accessorize to reference a specific decade. But I don’t base any of my clothes off a period. I personally like the decadence of the ’70s, the mid-to-late ’70s specifically, the very chic elegance of it. The whole Studio 54 thing. But it’s not really a reference point.”
What do you think of the KarJenner fashion influence?
“A lot more people are looking at fashion because of these celebrities, because of the Kardashians and the Jenners and the Hadid family. Social media has intensified celebrity influence and helped stars be more involved in fashion. And that celebrity influence helps bring the public into the fashion fold. It creates for the public an idea of how to dress and I think that’s an awesome thing.”
Who is one star you are dying to dress?
“Tilda Swinton. She would be my ultimate and in terms of a celebrity. She’s not the only one, there are others, but for my aesthetic she’s the most fitting personality.”
Is runway in your future?
“I hope so! Maybe Gigi and Kendall will come walk for me.”
Are you looking forward to seeing Affas’ work in 2017? What are some of your favorite looks? Share below!