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Q&A June, 16 2014

Selectism Q&A | Dayton Rinks of Smith & Smith

Some brands need a few seasons to develop, while some arrive fully conceptualized. Smith & Smith are a great example of the latter. With an approach to clothing that utilizes unfamiliar fabrics on familiar pieces of clothing, they’ve garnered attention and, more importantly for a young brand, several stockists from their debut season. We caught up with Dayton Rinks to talk about keeping the collection concise, Margiela comparisons and how the first season’s success has affected the company amongst other things. Take a leap to read the interview.

Was keeping the collection concise important to the overall ethos of the brand?

Yeah it’s what we’re aiming to do; create a beautiful everyday wardrobe that’s streamlined and uniform-like. It frees the mind. It’s true that less is more but only when you do it right. I like the quote “Less, but better.” That’s really what our clothing is all about, and I think it’s what a lot of people are looking for right now.

Are fabrics and design techniques more of an influence than the usual points of reference (Wes Anderson films, 17th-century farmers running through cornfields, etc.) or are they equally important?

Any point of reference that’s too specific can make the clothes feel very seasonally-themed, so we try to steer clear of that. Ultimately, we want it to have long-term wearability and coolness, and that’s achieved in part by avoiding certain cultural references and fashion industry trends that timestamp the clothes. Instead, we’ll often look at other areas of high-design outside of fashion and bring that into what we’re doing with clothing.

Do you feel menswear is more suited to the smaller details?

With menswear, there’s usually less effort needed in terms of developing far-out shapes so there’s extra time/energy that can be put into the smaller details. But for both men’s and women’s, I’d like to see more focus on details, which may be small in scale but not small in importance. It can be the difference between good and great.

Would you consider your clothes unisex? It all looks like something a woman wouldn’t have an issue wearing?

In stores, we’re on the men’s side but we don’t really identify ourselves as a true menswear brand because in doing neutral shapes we knew a lot of it would work for women as well. Women really love our t-shirts; that’s probably our most unisex item and they’re selling out. And personally, I think the coolest clothes loosely acknowledge gender but don’t ever accentuate it. There’s a place for that but it’s really the past. Where the world is heading is lesser emphasis on gender, in everything.

Do you ever feel pressure from the Margiela comparisons?

Comparisons-wise we’ve heard it all because our aesthetic builds on a lot of good ideas that came before us, that’s just how creativity progresses. But with Margiela, I can see similarities in that we have this generic-but-couture vibe that also feels very futuristic. It’s a compliment to be in the same sentence as any label of that caliber, but ultimately where we’re heading with Smith & Smith is somewhere very different. There’s a new look emerging in global culture and we’re just trying to capture it and give it our twist.

How has the success of the first season affected how you move forward as a company?

Early success is great, but in some ways it can be a double-edged sword. A lot of it has to do with people’s wide range of expectations and opinions — that the brand might become the new this, or the next that — it just has to be constantly filtered out in order to maintain your own voice. Since the initial debut, which was almost a year ago now, I think we’ve done well in keeping the vision. We’ve since showed a successful Fall/Winter 2014 season which hits stores beginning in July and our Spring/Summer 2015 collection previews later this summer.

Plans for the future?

We’re going to continue putting out our vision for a designer brand that reflects a new set of needs. To disregard rules and traditional expectations is necessary for the evolution of the industry, and so far everyone’s been very receptive.

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