She’s followed her fashion muse from childhood hobby projects in her north Florida hometown of Pensacola to a degree in apparel design from the University of Alabama on to a career in New York and the launch of her own line, by SMITH, in 2010. Now, Smith Sinrod reclaims her Southern roots, relocating to New Orleans to create a home with her husband and build her brand.

Smith Sinrod, creator and designer of bySMITH Collection. Image courtesy of Caroline Owens.

Smith Sinrod, creator and designer of by SMITH collection | Image courtesy of Caroline Owens

How old were you when you first recognized your passion?

My mom really encouraged me to explore my creative side from a young age. I took watercolor painting classes, experimented with my own personal style and pursued different artistic avenues that let me focus my interests. Luckily, my mom embraced this, encouraging my individuality, and it’s pushed me to take chances with my own designs. I’m fortunate that I found a career path allowing me to express myself  and channel my creativity.

What do you think defines Southern style, and how has that impacted your designs?

I think what defines Southern style is comfortable elegance. Weather can change instantly across the South, so I always try to design pieces with fabrics and patterns that transition well from day to night and desk to drinks. Southern women also love colorful clothing and can’t get enough of fun prints, my two favorite things to incorporate in my collections. I try to keep each collection fairly classic, adding my own spin with vibrant prints and geometric shape detailing. I also work to design pieces that aren’t trend-driven, but that can be styled as wardrobe staples worn from season to season.

Colorful touches in the by Smith showroom.

Colorful touches in the by SMITH showroom

Many of our readers may have first seen your line during a Streamin’ by Smith event. Are you planning more of those? How did you decide to load up an Airstream and hit the road?

One weekend, my husband Harris and I were in Brooklyn at Smorgasburg, a huge food truck event drawing over 100 vendors and great crowds. This triggered the idea to go mobile with my line, and a vintage Airstream seemed to be the perfect way to do it. I wanted to create an event that would be fun for families and friends, bringing together local artisans in a no-pressure atmosphere not just focused on shopping. I thought maybe I could put a spin on a trunk show by holding it out of a vintage Airstream trunk and making it a place to eat and drink and connect with the community.
On our first trip, we drove the airstream from Dallas to New Orleans, Montgomery, Nashville, Atlanta, Birmingham and smaller towns in between. We were fortunate to partner with so many local artisans and small businesses, ranging from jewelers to food trucks, and it really made for collaborative events appealing to a variety of audiences in their own neighborhoods. Our first trip was such as success, we hosted the September Streamin’ event a month later, hosting more shows throughout the South. We definitely want to do the Airstream event again with a few new surprises — so stay tuned!

Smith Sinrod peeks out of her signature bySMITH Airstream trailer and mobile trunk show.

Smith peeks out of her signature Airstream trailer and mobile trunk show.

Who are your personal fashion icons, past or present? Who do you wish you could dress?

My late great-grandmother was one of my personal fashion icons. She was always put together — very polished with elegant taste — and truly made an impact on my design style. In present day, I wish I could dress someone like Kristen Bell or Jennifer Lawrence. Both have such playful attitudes, and neither shy from unique, fun prints and patterns. I think they would be great to work with.

Vintage details and bold prints are hallmarks of Smith Sinrod's bySMITH collection. Image courtesy of Caroline Owens.

Vintage details and bold prints are hallmarks of the collection. Image courtesy of Caroline Owens

What’s inspiring you right now?

I am inspired by architecture and incorporate it by using geometric shapes for detailing and cutouts in my designs. I love structured necklines and making a simple style slightly different with small details. My pieces show distinct references to the Art Deco-style architecture. I’m really curious to see how my upcoming move to New Orleans will be reflected in my design aesthetic. It’s been pretty surreal packing up and leaving New York after five years, but it’s allowed me to have a different perspective on what pieces I’m designing and the direction I want the line to take.

What’s been your most treasured advice you’ve received?

Never give up. My dad regularly told my sisters and me this, encouraging us to be strong, no matter what. Even though it’s pretty straightforward, it’s pretty indicative of how my career has gone the past couple of years. I’ve had challenging times along the way, but they all lead to growth.

Everyone has suffered from a few fashion don’ts … bad perms, unfortunate prom dresses, etc. What’s your secret “closet” regret?

Oh, goodness! I’ve always had my own style, including phases where I incorporated eccentric items into my daily wardrobe, such as crazy hats for each day of the week (quite a time for self-expression). I was dubbed “hat girl” in lower school … I am not sure that was one of my finer moments. After hats, I moved into the butterfly clips. We have all had our moments, but it’s okay to explore what makes you comfortable, even if it is a set of crazy hats or bold accessories. If it makes the person wearing it happy, no one else should care. I actually commend the people doing their own thing – that takes courage.

Smith Sinrod's build a strong brand with a great team, including bySMITH collection Account Executive Celie Mayhall.

Smith builds a strong brand with a great team, including account executive Celie Mayhall.

Now that you’re back down South, let’s chat food! What’s your go-to comfort food?

Grits, hands down. That’s something I’ve truly missed living in New York. It’s a dish that reminds me of the South, and when I get home, it’s the first thing I crave.

New Orleans certainly gives you restaurant bliss. Where are some of your favorite spots?

Well, I am such a new kid around here … hmmm, I would say Clancy’s, Bouligny Tavern, St. James Cheese, Satsuma and Butcher. When we hosted our Airstream event in New Orleans, we had The Boxcar food truck cater, and they are one of my favorite local food trucks!

Do you have a bucket list travel destination?

I would love to go to Spain. Between the food, scenery and wine, I don’t know if I would ever leave!

When you do travel, what’s in your carry-on bag?

I always have my laptop, raincoat (another thing my dad enforced—no traveling without a raincoat), black waterproof eyeliner, spare contacts, socks, Chapstick and a sketchbook … not sure I would survive with those items, but they are my go-to carry-on survival pieces.

Designer Smith Sinrod and husband Harris Diano just relocated to New Orleans.

Smith Sinrod and her husband, Harris Diano, just relocated to New Orleans.

How do you relax and de-stress?

I love cooking and hanging out with my husband. It’s important to shut off work mode and hang out. And you have to eat, so why not cook something delicious while catching up!

Which book do you most often recommend or gift?

My First New York. It’s a compilation of famous New Yorkers’ first experiences in the city, and I’ve been able to relate to so many of their stories.

Name three things you just can’t live without, other than faith, family and friends.

Laughter. Sarcasm. Humility.

Look for #StreaminBySmith events in your area for a unique twist on the traditional trunk show.

Look for #StreaminBySmith events in your area for a unique twist on the traditional trunk show.

Smith, we’ll be looking for your pieces at our local boutiques and watching for the Airstream to pull up in our cities. Thank you for chatting with StyleBlueprint, and welcome back home to the South! Check bysmithcollection.com for images of the entire collection and where-to-buy information.

Enjoy reading all our FACES of the South features in our StyleBlueprint Southern Edition.