Michael Winston Smith, aged 22 is currently studying his final year of photography at Ryerson University, Toronto. His artistic eye and creative skills have led him to his newest venture of scarf design, designing new and innovative prints that share his very defined views. Although studying photography, Michael finds that his scarf designs offer complete creative freedom, something that he holds very close to his heart.
This week we caught up with Michael to find out more on his exciting new venture.
When did your passion for art and fashion begin?
It was really an attraction to beautiful design. My grandmother owned an antique store – she honed my eye for detail and quality. Any Canadian born in the 80’s who has a thing for fashion grew up watching Jeanie Becker’s ‘Fashion Television’ and Tim Blank on ‘Fashion File’. I remember being parked on the living room floor, totally honed on the T.V – captivated. The beginning of every episode of Fashion Television started with Animotion’s ‘Obsession’. The world seemed a lot bigger then – you couldn’t click through the shows online or watch a live stream. From there I became glued to men’s style – I bought my first GQ when I was 12.
Who are your favorite artists and how do they influence you scarf designs?
Artists like Jenny Holzer, Penelope Umbrico, Warhol is unavoidable and the great Dadaist Hannah Hoch. Holzer as an unsparring us of language – she dishes out challenging truths that a lot of us spend a good deal of time trying to avoid. Umbrico does a beautiful job of subverting the consumer ideal through her investigations of vernacular photography. Warhol, had it figured out – but 50 years later we’re living in a world where the factory is virtual, highly automated and highly outsourced! Whether you’re Prada, Walmart or an artist like myself working out of a one room studio “The Factory” reigns supreme and near impossible to refuse. Coming from a photographic background, Hannah Hoch was a huge influence. Some of her most important pieces were in collage, using popular media images to subvert and detourne the politics of WW1 and the Capitalist ideal. Her work is subtle, articulate, brilliant and more relevant today than ever before.
What fashion designers inspire you and your work?
Designers don’t really inspire my work. I undoubtedly stay on top of the trends, its a hobby and with fashion you’re always atlas 6 months ahead. What I find more inspiring are how current political, economic and art movements inspire fashion. Fashion is such a broad and yet specific term all at once. What I love are the general sweeping trends (i.e., floral patterns, colour blocking, the ‘global influence’, the return to boxy and looser silhouettes, the buttoned down and return to formality in mens wear), I love seeing how those ideas tend to infiltrate not just what are clothing looks like but how those over arching trends affect the entire zeitgeist.
How would you include your scarves within your wardrobe?
Scarves are one of my favourite accessories. I think for the modern dandy they can stand in place of a tie when in more formal occasions. They’re great pops of colour for under a coat or jacket when it’s a little chillier out – and the silk really does add a luxurious hand. Women have way more options – they could make them into tops, sarongs, tie them in their hair – I’d love to see them worn as turban or if muslim women started wearing them as head scarves – I think that would be so chic! Of course – they’re very political and extremely symbolic, so as many collectors have done so far, you can have them stretched and hung on your wall. When mounted and hung away from the wall , the silk offers a stunning translucence.
Who would you say was your fashion icon?
I’d have to say they’re artists who are in fashion at the moment. Jeff Koons, Gerhard Richter and Julian Schnabel have illustrious and controversial careers – but regardless of what you think of their work they live in a world where they’re able to capitalize on the extremity of their imaginations – it’s brilliant.
We are all about vacation style and luxury travel. Where is your favorite place to vacay?
I grew up in a lake district north of Toronto called Muskoka – it’s a paradise surrounded with fresh water lakes, rolling hills and dense forests. I grew up in a kind of vacation haven – which I rarely get a chance to go back to. And though I’ve had the good fortune to travel a great deal – to Italy, France, Spain, Greece, Belgium, Japan, into the Carribean, all over the U.S.A and most recently a road trip across Canada to the west coast – that favourite place has yet to be discovered. Ultimately, I’d like to head somewhere where the weather suits my clothes – a home base that always has an air of vacation about it.
Having lived in Toronto for several years now, you must have found your number one spots to shop. Which would you say is at the top of your list?
My favourite shop in Toronto is Leather Foot. They sell the very best in men’s shoes and even over a made to order. It’s a small and elegant shop and everything they sell is of the highest craftsmanship. It really is a first for Toronto.
Finally, when your scarves have come out of production you must be so excited to share your designs and inevitably start selling. What would be your dream place to stock your pieces?
I’m working that out right now! They are first and foremost art so creating a relationship with a commercial gallery that understands my position would be wonderful. But the idea of collaborating with high luxury brands would be a dream. I just loved the recent Louis Vuitton and Yayoi Kusama pairing. Asprey’s in London, Henry Bendel in L.A, as for my current stomping ground an exclusive at Holt Renfrew would be wonderful. My work skirts a delicate line of critiquing the very system that makes it possible. The fact that people are collecting it proves its success and its failure – and the work is about that very dichotomy.
It shows in Michael’s work that he is truly passionate about his designs and pieces. We are a fan, and look forward to paring these exquisite scarves into our vacation wardrobes. Whether it’s tied around your neck or to the handle of your mulberry, it offers that touch of detail to an outfit that may otherwise be lacking. Below are our most loved prints of Michaels. Watch out this summer for new designs still to come at www.mwsmithart.com.