Akeem Smith is the Jamaican-born, NYC-based stylist and creative director who’s spent the past few years defining fashion’s underground. Whether it’s styling shoots starring muscle cows or recreating bedroom scenes inspired by Caribbean households, Smith’s cross-cultural references have seen him style Yeezy Season 2, work magic with Claire Barrow, create stunning imagery with photographer Eloise Parry and help smash gender and beauty ideals with Hood By Air, where his vital styling and casting contributions helped cement the brand’s striking visual identity.
In fact, it’s Smith’s very specific references, drawn from a childhood spent observing his grandmother’s dancehall atelier in Jamaica, that’s given him an eye for the visually spectacular. “Back in the 90s and early 00s, dancehall – or Jamaica as a whole – had the nature of dressing more eccentrically than now, so I draw a lot from that,” he says. “But all my inspirations really come from a gritty place... from my darkest twisted fantasies. They don’t come from a light place at all.”
This year, the self-described “enigma wrapped in a riddle and cash” will be working on a costume exhibition and extending his striking portfolio. He’ll also keep track of his grandmother and her friends who, as it happens, possess a certain stylish charm. “It’s fascinating to see them still in their youthful manner, through the way of dress, where they hang out, things that they’re interested in,” he says. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they had a Snapchat or something.”
Text Monique Todd