Last name: Akeem smith
Hometown: the Crown Heights neighborhood in Brooklyn
Now lives: In the same four bedroom apartment in Crown Heights he grew up in and now shares with his grandmother.
Claim to fame: Mr. Smith is a multimedia artist, dance hall archivist, fashion stylist for Helmut Lang and other labels, and a creative conspirator for Hood by Air, the influential streetwear brand. It turns out that being so multidisciplinary takes discipline. “I’ve always been drawn to this idea of self-presentation, but it took me years to reprogram myself away from this idea that you can only work on one thing,” Smith said.
Big cut: Growing up, Mr. Smith commuted between New York City and Kingston, Jamaica, his parents’ hometown, where he spent hours in Ouch, a colorful workshop operated by his aunt, Paula Ouch, and a cousin in the second degree, Debbie Ouch.
At 16, he interned at Tokion, an avant-garde art and culture magazine in downtown New York. As an assistant to the magazine’s fashion editor, he worked on projects with Telfar and Shayne Oliver, then unknown designers. “I’ve always wanted my career and my social life to be in cahoots,” said Smith.
Latest project: Although he is better known in fashion circles, Mr. Smith’s work as an artist is increasingly recognized. His first major solo exhibition, “No Gyal Can Test,” is on display at Red Bull Arts Detroit through July and features large-scale sculptures made from wrecks salvaged from his childhood home in Jamaica. He has a concurrent exhibit, “Corossol”, inspired by Kingston architecture, at historic Woods Cathedral in Detroit. “Like Kingston’s dance hall community, Detroit is the birthplace of so much global black culture,” he said.
Next thing: Mr. Smith will participate in a conversation about the black art collection with the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit on June 26, moderated by Jova Lynne, the museum’s curator. Later this summer, a capsule collection inspired by the Jamaican dance hall scene will be sold by online retailer Ssense.
Fashion house: Section 8, the fashion brand he launched in 2016, which offers deconstructed leather jackets and blouses, does not shy away from politics. (The label’s name refers to the Housing Choice Voucher Program, a federal grant available to low-income renters.) Real estate, ”he said. “But, honestly, the idea for the brand came from a trip to ketamine.”