On June 9, the Charles Smith II was announced as the winner of OnlyFans Creative Fund: Fashion Edition. The Dallas-based fashion designer won the $50,000 grand prize awarded by the subscription-based streaming platform. Smith II competed against five fashion designers and stylists to secure the coveted prize.
The Harlem-born, Dallas-based designer started his career in fashion by modeling for high fashion brands in Milan. His experience in the fashion industry sharpened his eye for design. In 2017, he joined the inaugural class of designers at the St. Louis Fashion Fund. While there, Smith II met the legendary André Leon Talley, who served as a mentor to Smith II before he passed. Grammy winner Solange Knowles, Bobby Sessions, Emmy winner Karrueche Tran, Zoe Kravitz and more notable celebrities have worn Smith II’s designs.
He is the first to win the stateside version of the competition series. The first iteration was based in the United Kingdom and focused on the music industry. The American version centered on the fashion industry. Creators and designers were judged by a celebrity panel of stylists Law Roach and Maeve Reilly, as well as makeup artist Sir John. Fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff served as a mentor to the grand prize winner, Charles Smith II, first runner up-winner, Lee Rickie and second runner-up winner, Mario Miguelito.
Shortly before his win, Smith spoke to D Magazine about why he applied for the series and plans for the grand prize.
The interview has been edited for clarity.
Your brand has received coverage in local, state, national and international publications. What inspired you to enter this competition?
In order to scale your business into the next phase, it takes capital. I have tried out for a few competition series like Project Runway and Making The Cut, but COVID threw a wrench in that for me. Those opportunities did not go through. I have always been a believer of what’s meant for is meant for you. My friend sent me the submission the day before it was due. I almost didn’t because submissions are a long, exhausting process. But I reminded myself to keep going. I felt good about it after I applied. I told myself, if I get this, especially understanding the power of TV, it can be a tool and a very resourceful thing for your platform.
After you submitted your online application, what was the rest of the process until you landed in Los Angeles for the in-person competition?
A week and a half later, I was told I made it to the semi-finals. They asked me if I was able to travel to LA. A week after that, I jumped on a Zoom call with the producers. They wanted to get a sense of my personality. On the Zoom call, I was able to talk about myself and my brand. I have a good understanding of what me getting into design was. For me, this was a calling.
Being able to use fashion as the vessel that allows me to take something shiny to get people’s attention, and then bring it over to something important. Once I understood that’s what the calling was calling me to do with this, it made it easier for me to talk about it. I really understand what I’m doing with fashion and where I’m going with it. Every part of the vision since I started has come true, exactly to the T, of what I already saw.
Once you made it to LA, tell me about the completion? Did you have any expectations?
I don’t go into anything with expectations because I feel that’s how you get into your head. That’s how you start getting in your way and lose. I’m not in the business of losing. At the end of the day, it’s meant for me to go with what I know and to remember that is in this situation; no one knows who you are, and just approach it in a humble way. My city may know who I am but when you think about TV is a different situation.
The lights, production, and cameras will intimidate certain people but that’s not what it’s for. When you enter into that space, it is the time to go with what you know, to show people who you are and what you have been doing, and do that to the best of your ability. It is to make them understand what you are trying to give to the world.
This is a great prize. You spoke about the need for capital. What do you plan to do with the $50,000 grand prize?
Part of the prize is a conversation with Rebecca Minkoff. She made me see my concept line and how to use it in a NFT format. She opened my eyes to see that part of it. In terms of my prize money, I bought my fabrics for my next collection and got inventory for my merchandise/e-commerce items.