When we needed a dress that said “real estate,” we turned to local designer Byrone Smith who created a couture confection out of open house flyers. We can’t wait to see what he does next.
It’s not everyone who can respond to a design challenge like the one I issued, “I’d like a dress that somehow says ‘Real Estate,”—possibly with ‘For Sale’ or ‘Sold’ incorporated somehow,” by texting me a photo of a flawless paper cocktail dress crafted from Open House flyers in under twenty-four hours. But Byrone Smith was thrilled to have the opportunity to do what he’s always wanted to do: Design beautiful clothes for other creative people.
It didn’t hurt that our cover model and his muse was local model Abby Hendershot, a Heyman Talent success story who signed with DNA New York last year and has opened for Marc Jacobs in New York fashion week. “This is what I live for,” gushed Smith when I called him. “I love creating clothes for other artists and fashion types. They appreciate my work more.”
Smith met with Abby for a quick fitting the night before our shoot and wound up rethinking his original plan: “She has a long torso, so I decided a two-piece dress would look amazing.” (It did.)
Custom work like this is nothing new to the designer who recently returned to his hometown of Louisville after four years in L.A. “I always wanted to go to California,” says Smith. “So instead of going to college and racking up loans, I made enough money after high school to buy a one way ticket to Hollywood and I went.” Smith stayed in hotels while he earned money as a waiter to get a down payment for an apartment.
Eventually, he lost his job, and “it clicked for me,” he says.
“If you want to be able to live the life you want, you have to do something no one can take away from you. If I followed my dream of being a designer, that would be a job I couldn’t lose. I would be my own boss.”
Smith paid a sewing instructor one hundred-and-eighty dollars to teach him to sew and he quickly started doing it for a living. “I started really making an effort to pursue the life I wanted,” he says. “I was making cell phone cases, beanie hats, maxi skirts out of table cloths, bow ties out of scraps of fabric—I was making anything I could to make money.”
Eventually, Bryrone came up with a harem pant design for dancers and it took off. “I started selling them for sixty-five dollars a pair and I couldn’t make them fast enough. Dancers wanted simple patterns without pockets. They needed the functionality. Soon, I was making six hundred dollars a week sewing pants. Major choreographers and dancers were ordering them.”
All the while, he was living on the sewing instructor’s couch and still soaking up everything he could learn. “She took me to New York fashion week. It was the best education I could get and I had no debt.”
With his design aesthetic and business more established, Byrone came home last year and got a job as assistant wig and costume manager at Actors Theater. “Doing wardrobe at Actors has taught me diligence, attention to detail and that you can never stop learning,” says Smith. “It’s been incredible.” He has also become involved with the fashion collective Louisville Bespoke and, more specifically, with local designer Frances Lewis who, like Smith, prefers custom work. “I’ve had an internship with her and it’s been nothing but a blessing. She let me open her recent Revelations fashion show. I have learned so much from her.”
He has palpable enthusiasm for his new life in his hometown. “I am at a high point,” he says. “I think we are starting to see a reaction to fast fashion in that more people are seeking custom garments that last. I’m in a perfect spot to take advantage of that.” And, as he did for our cover dress, he’s willing to work obsessively hard to accomplish his goals. “I always tell people that fashion is ninety-five percent hard work, five percent glamour. People don’t see all of the work leading up to the magic but you have to put in the effort.” He hopes his work ethic and artistry can inspire others. “I want people to realize they can make magic too,” he says. “You can make things with your hands and make money. You can make a life for yourself that nobody else has imagined.”
Where To Shop For Byrone Smith Designs
“I sell through social media because it’s free and easier,” says Smith. Prices range from $65 to $100 for two piece ensembles.
Find him on:
Instagram at Lorde_Byron and Hashhtagzz
The Inner Warrior Yoga boutique on Frankfort Ave., starting May 25