Designer Carter Smith reflects on life’s work, inspiration for elegant, comfortable style

Rachel Kaplan/WSN

After nearly half a century of designing for famous names like Elizabeth Taylor and Alicia Keys, Carter Smith, a little-known name with a long legacy, is finally stepping out of the shadows himself by sharing his story and vision with the public. Smith’s own tie-dyed banners, dresses and more adorn every inch — from carpet to sofa to wall — of Dejavu Tailoring’s showroom on the Upper East Side, where he sat for interviews this past week. Offering everyone he greets with an inviting smile, the designer cannot wait to share his fashion collection — the results of his work, passion and love.

“In childhood, you get to be spontaneous, you get to create all these things and think … life is about having fun,” Smith said. “As I’ve evolved into my work, I’ve evolved into my childhood.”

Having learned the shibori tie-dyeing technique from his mother, Smith has been dyeing fabrics for most of his life. Smith graduated with a degree in sculpture, and channeled his creative skills into fashion as his interest in dyeing simple T-shirts rapidly developed.

“I taught myself how to make those clothes. I don’t have a formal design background,” Smith said.

While his clothes are structurally simple, they retain a high elegance in their mesmerizing, one-of-a-kind prints that stand out among the traditionally chic norm.

“To dress a woman in New York, you don’t have to wear black … or just neutrals,” Carter said. “You actually take on the energy of the clothes you wear, so if you wake up in the morning and you put something rainbow on, you’re going to be happy.”

Rachel Kaplan/WSN

Through his use of silk, bias and velvet, Smith illuminates the beauty of all who wear his clothes. From Sarah Jessica Parker to a mother of four or the average girl on the street, Smith’s breezy fabrics aim to complement the shape of any woman, and with every hand-dyed design, he elevates them to their own unique level of sophistication.

“One of the things about these clothes is women put them on, they feel good and it changes the way they move,” Smith said. “It changes the way people see them; therefore, it changes the way they see themselves, so it’s a whole different psychology of clothing.”

Smith refuses to discriminate against women in terms of body shape or size, as well. His inclusive collections are fit for every woman, and he keeps this in mind as he designs.

“I had a client who told me, ‘I’m going to lose 180 pounds, but I want a coat that I can wear before and after.’ So I went home and designed this coat that would look good on a 300 pound woman or a 180 pound woman.”

While his designs run on the luxurious side in terms of price, a student splurge might occasionally be worth it, especially for Smith’s hand-dyed $120 leggings. When stepping into a Carter Smith design, simplicity, flattery and artistry are almost instantaneous. They are easy and almost too comfortable for any woman to resist.

“This is where art and fashion fuse to become one,” Smith said, “and what I design never goes out of fashion because it’s never in fashion. You know what’s in fashion? Women are in fashion. They’re timeless.”

A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, Oct. 23 print edition. David Bologna is a staff writer. Email him at bstyle@nyunews.com.

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