Stomping the Yard

Fashion Insight from Bevy Smith

Bevy Smith is no stranger to success. From working for magazine publications, to becoming a TV personality, she has paved her way in the fashion industry. The “Fashion Queens” talk show host spoke with JET about the ins and outs of fashion and how to achieve success in the business.

JET: What interested you in fashion? Is it something you have always been passionate about?

Bevy Smith: You know just being from Harlem and everything fashion is such an important part of style culture. I’ve always been interested in style versus fashion. To me, fashion is more of a business and style is more about you know…kind of the way you put things together. Being from Harlem I knew all about style, but I didn’t know about the business until I got a job in the fashion industry. That was the catalyst for me deciding that I really wanted to go into it.

JET: I saw you were named “Most Stylish New Yorker” last year. What were your reactions to the news?

Bevy Smith: I thought it was lovely. For me, I like clothes. I’ve always been on the business side of fashion. I was never a designer or stylist. It’s nice that people recognized the things I had in my closet. I also think it was a real boost of confidence because I’m not the typical size of a fashionista. It’s nice that they anointed a curvy girl as one of the most stylish New Yorkers.

JET: Recently, you added being the spokesperson for the McDonald’s Student Fashion Design Competition to your list of projects. Tell me about the competition. What do you think is the most significant thing a contestant will gain by competing?

Bevy Smith: The competition is so awesome because as you know, the fashion field is a very competitive one. It is really hard for people of color to break into fashion. So this event is really giving someone who wins a great opportunity to participate in an event at New York Fashion Week, to have their line of t-shirts and sweatshirts distributed at the Essence musical festival and then of course, having a fabulous photo shoot and a fun little mentoring session with me as well. The hash tag is #365lovinfashion.

JET: In regards to the African-American community, do you feel that fashion is well-represented? Do you think we have enough outlets to get our voices heard?

Bevy Smith: Well I don’t think there are enough black fashion designers playing on the high-end level of fashion. They’re not well-represented in the ranks of fast fashion even. So I would like to see more African-American fashion designers kind of rise to the ranks of a Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, or Tommy Hilfiger. In the big American brands, I would love to see black designers be in those ranks. I think it will happen. We’ve had some really great people that could have done it. Patrick Kelly was a really iconic fashion designer in the 80s, Willi Smith was a really great designer as well. We really had firsts of fashion geniuses and people who I think really could have really built that brand.

JET: The competition is a great way for emerging designers to get their work criticized by working professionals. What are some other ideas or projects for students/young designers to get their work out there?

Bevy Smith: You know one of the great things right now is that we’re living in the day and age of social media. Sometimes you have to hope that maybe you can get your portfolio in front of a professional, an established designer or someone like that. Now, you have the opportunity to go direct to the consumer by posting your stuff on social media and as a matter of fact, my stylist actually got two things that I’d worn on “Fashion Queens” from people [on Instagram] who contacted her through social media.

JET: Any tips for young designers who want to establish themselves in the fashion world?

Bevy Smith: For designers, I think it’s very important for them to be an apprentice with an already established designer. Internships are so so crucial to the development of fine talent because you know you can actually get a chance to see the inner workings of the business. Being a great designer is not enough to build a fashion brand. If you don’t know the business side of it, you have no idea about skills and different things like that, you won’t be able to really succeed. I always say it’s the best for you to learn on the job.