Editor’s Note: This Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.
Designer Charles Smith II is feeling untouchable, but he’ll let his latest collection tell you that. The local designer was recently chosen for the St. Louis Fashion Incubator, a program that will enable him to expand his lines Smith II and S2. (Dallas’ Allison Mitchell was also selected.) This means taking leave from Dallas, but before he goes, Smith will present one more collection, one that hits close to home. The S2 spring/summer 2017 collection, “Do Not Touch,” will be shown Oct. 2 at the Dallas Contemporary, with all proceeds benefitting DISD. We caught up with the designer to talk inspiration, good vibes, and things to come.
Do you design for a specific type of person, or is there a spirit to your clothing?
Oh yeah, there’s definitely always a spirit because it’s always more about the person, their lifestyle, and their mannerisms—kind of how they move or even how they treat people. For me, that all makes a difference.
What inspired this particular collection for S2?
For me, it’s always more, “what do I want people to feel?” I wanted a feel-good vibe with this collection, especially because of what’s going on in the world that’s put a dark cloud on things. I just wanted this collection to put some love and some feel-good type of vibe into the moment. It’s really needed.
Now would be a good time to really push awareness in these urban areas, especially in Dallas, where these opportunities aren’t showcased for them.
In 2015, you founded scholarships for DISD students who want to go into the creative arts. How did the partnership with DISD come about?
That started with the last S2 collection I did when I was looking for venues and thinking of doing one in the gym [of my alma mater, Lincoln High School]. But I lost track of that once I got there and started talking to coaches. I was hearing about certain issues that still are happening that were issues when I was a student there. These kids are still needing assistance and needing help with personal life situations. It’s about trying to get them to open their minds to different avenues of life, especially the creative field. Now would be a good time to really push awareness in these urban areas, especially in Dallas, where these opportunities aren’t showcased for them. I felt that I had a responsibility to do something. It’s hard to see a problem and not do something about it. That’s why I created the scholarship, bringing awareness to these kids. It’s not just talking about fashion, but talking to these kids about insecurities they might have and letting them know that’s not important. That’s a moment in time.
Where did “Do Not Touch” come from?
There were, like, three or four inspirations for that. It did stem from everything that’s been going on in the world. When I decided to do “Do Not Touch,” it was kind of like a Black Lives Matter thing, but not so “Black Lives Matter.” It’s more meant for a universal thing—a universal habit of personal space. It’s almost like art. When you go into a museum it says “do not touch the art” or whatever the case may be, and for some reason, you hold it to this higher value, psychologically.
The other thing is just personal space. When women go out, and they’re at the club hanging with their friends and some guys just grab them, it’s like, “Did you not read this shirt? DO NOT TOUCH.”
There’s the serious and then there’s playful reasons for why “do not touch” came into play. And it speaks for itself. The fashion really, literally speaks for itself.
What’s next for you?
The St. Louis Fashion Incubator is something I was chosen for. They chose six designers from around the nation. We will live there for two years, so I will be moving to St. Louis in January. We get studio space to work in and a stipend to live on for the duration of the two years. Basically, they’re helping us grow our businesses, helping us get our future in place in order to get to that next level. I’m going to move to New York as soon as that program is finished.
Will you ever return to Dallas?
Dallas is forever for me. [I plan to] build my own fashion house in Dallas so the industry has a reason to come here.
Natalie Gempel is a DMagazine.com intern.