Every decade or so there comes along a person that disrupts, shakes up and challenges specific perceptions of knowledge, at which time, the process of evolution begins. Charles Smith II is such a person, and through his endless pursuit of educating, pushing the envelope and raising the bar within the fashion industry, Dallasites have become immersed in his creative embrace and clairvoyant vision.
A native of Harlem, New York, the creative director of Smith II relocated to Dallas at the age of 14, where he attended Lincoln High School. Having been previously scouted before his move, Smith worked as a model in Milan from the ages of 14 until 21. It was this experience of living abroad in one of the most fashionable cities in the world and being so directly exposed to renown designers, that peaked his imagination and ignited his journey of becoming a fashion designer for menswear, womens’ ready-to-wear and haute couture.
It was not until after he attended University of South Carolina and played basketball with the Texas Legends that fashion would take center stage in his life again. Created out of the necessity to find something that he liked and wanted to wear, Smith enrolled into the Art Institute of Dallas to learn how to design. Consequently, Smith II was launched and his superior eye for fashion was born. Similar to his life and travels, his inspiration for his designs are in a constant state of metamorphosis and are indicative of art imitating life.
Today, Smith’s designs have received global recognition and have been admired by celebrities and notables within the inner circle of the fashion industry. He is personally invited and attends some of the most sought after shows in NYFW, Paris and was on the guest list when the House of Chanel put on their very first show in America at the Dallas Fair Park.
Always looking for an occasion to mentor youth, art and the fashion community, Smith has recently collaborated with the Dallas Independent School District (DISD) to present his newest collection on October 2, 2016. The S2 by SMITH II “Do Not Touch” Spring/Summer 17 Runway presentation will benefit 3 high school graduates moving on to creative art institutions.
Like all of his shows, this too will be a sell out. People will come, rain or shine, outside or inside and for weeks it will be the topic of conversation. There is something charismatic about the 6’2 designer that reaches far past his designs skills. He just has “it.” He captivates, captures your attention and creates a buzz.
He is Charles Smith II.
How did your career begin? My career and background stemmed from modeling professionally for Elite Model Management-Miami & Milan division. Being thrusted into the high fashion world was a crash course and being conditioned to adapt a culture that I took a lot of interest in and living in Europe there is history around every corner. So once I gave basketball which is my 1st love and what I had done since I was younger and gave up modeling simply because I realized how much of a commitment fashion design is, its a true sacrifice of personal time and I had to make that sacrifice to be all in if I was going to pursue this career. From that SMITH II was born.
From where do you draw inspiration from for your designs? My inspiration is a constant, from friends and meeting new people, travel and most of all, constantly finding myself as a up and coming designer in a soul searching kind of way.
Who is your mentor in design? Someone I look up to in fashion design is Karl Lagerfeld, not only because he is a rockstar but because of his work ethic and sacrifice he has made to be all about art in design and to the lifestyle he choose to give a 100% of his fiber to. His ability to be able to design for CHANEL, Fendi, and his own brand Karl Lagerfeld on top of his side art photography and short films. I resonate with hime because I se a lot of my own same work ethic and interest in the same breath because I don’t see a limit on what I can make or express into reality and I like his style not only in fashion but in work ethic.
If you were to do a collection in collaboration with another designer, who would it be? Zara, simply how H&M does these collaborations, I would want to do one with Zara.
How do you think your brand has evolved since its inception and what key element has remained consistent? Always upward growth in numbers and in detail. The constant in that growth is my journey in learning the craft by living in it and learning myself as a designer which helps become the best version of myself as I continue to learn while working in it.
How do you feel the Smith II brand differs from other fashion brands? Because of background in working in high fashion as a working model for Elite Model Management Miami & Milan, I always watched everything around me and remembering and concealing that excitement that once was in fashion where people got trampled over to just get into a McQueen show. Observing those before and having to opportunity to have worked with Karl Lagerfeld and attending Lee McQueen presentations before his passing and being able to attend various events with creative minds as John Galliano and etc. And having lived in that era at a early age but always being a sponge of modernity of where I come from and constantly being influenced and inspired by Hip Hop and Classical and music that makes you feel good or takes you on a journey along with conversations with my clients and listening to them and observing there lifestyle I feel gives an advantage because my connection with the universe and realization that I can do whatever I want and I can learn whatever I want and apply it to my arsenal of natural gifts and abilities.
Describe your latest collection? What was the inspiration behind the collection? My latest collection was inspired by current happenings of police injustice, also artistic psychological unspoken dialogue with personal space all synonymously having a common message of holding things and people in life at a high value that sometimes we take for granted and shouldn’t.
How would you classify your designs? What type of person do you design for? I classify my designs to make people feel protected, powerful and confident and “unfuckwitable.” I design for the person who’s doesn’t care if there recognized or not but also knows that when they step out wearing something of mines, there style speaks for itself and will attraction the right kind of attention of people wanting to know who they are.
Where do you see your brand in the next decade? `I see my brand functioning on a path as a fashion house as CHANEL does. I will make my brand that of a house hold name and I will keep it in Dallas and build it and make the people come.
Define fashion? I define fashion as a multitude of things you can and have to determine for yourself, over time I feel certain over used words especially “fashion “ have to be redefined but personal style and taste is what I would call fashion.
What has influenced your designs the most? Life has influenced my designs.
What advice would you give aspiring fashion designers? Follow your instincts and know your truth and don’t be afraid to constantly jump off the cliff & take chances in life.
What is your favorite material to work with? Not sure yet. Im constantly experimenting with different materials.
Least favorite? Still learning what I like and least like.
Color or monochromatic? I think you know the answer to this question…lol….Mono fa sho!
Favorite accessory? Bracelets and chokers and waist shirt bags that I just created for the SS17 “Do Not Touch“ Collection.
Tell us about your philanthropic work in the community? I created SMITH II scholarship fund which each S2 by SMITH II is solely committed to raising funds that are distributed to high school graduates in the DISD that will move onto creative art institutions. Each student receives $1500. I had a responsibility to do something once I revisited my alma mater Lincoln High School and saw and realized that the more urban communities just was less in resources to help and I want to do my part in doing something because it just didn’t feel right not to go something.
What are signature characteristics of your designs that make it recognizable to clients? The stitching make it recognizable and details that are a constant but re-engineered.
How do you balance creativity with commerce? I simply create what I want and understand the market in which I am but watching and listening around me but understanding to push people into what they need and will desire once I show it to them because sometimes people don’t know what to want until its presented to them.
Describe the fashion scene in Dallas: Do you feel as if it’s evolving? Dallas fashion scene has existed but in different circles there are different perspectives and levels to it in Dallas. You have the pretenders, the fashionistas and the people who truly appreciate art in design and really take it seriously and adopt it to there lifestyle because it means something to them because of how it makes them feel and not just because of the name. So it is evolving for sure because of people who work in fashion traveling and bringing industry gate keepers here to Dallas making the awareness more visible than ever.
Who is your muse? My friends and My clients.
For your shows how do you go about picking the music that coincides with your collection? The music comes first and its a inner search of what I feel from the universe and whatever the voices tell me to do I do because neither of them ever steer me wrong. I simply listen to my instincts.
Any new designers that impress you? Gypsy Sport, Brandon Maxwell & OFF-WHITE by Virgil Abloh.
Smith II’s Haute Secrets
Where were you born: Harlem, New York
Occupation: Creative Director, Influencer, Personal Shopper
Favorite Restaurant: Porta Di Roma, Terrilli’s on Greenville, La Banqueta
Best dessert: Cheesecake & Tiramisu
Best Sunday brunch: Remedy’s
Best place for a power business meeting: As long as the meetings are productive and getting somewhere I don’t care where we meet..lol
If you have out of town guests, which hotel would you recommend? The Joule
Favorite shopping venue/boutique: Celine, Alexander McQueen, Traffic LA, Forty Five Ten
Favorite Cultural Institution: Dallas Black Academy of Arts & Letters
Best Limousine/Driving Service: Premiere Transportation
Best Museum/Exhibit: Dallas Contemporary
Describe your city in three words: Blank Canvas, Conservative, But learning to open their minds
All-around favorite spot in Dallas: RBC Underground on Sunday All Everything Parties
Best Aspect of Dallas: The perfect place to be the pioneer of the future happenings of Dallas.
Tickets available at: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/s2-by-smith-ii-do-not-touch-ss17-runway-presentation-tickets-26327715907