Briony Smith is the best kind of fashion writer to meet at an event – she is always wearing an outrageous outfit and a smile. She has the winning combination as far as I am concerned – she is observant, opinionated and optimistic. I asked her a few questions about her career and craft.
Photo Credit: Kinetic Form
One thing I admire about you is your style – you wear bright colours, unusual items with a sense of humour. How would you describe your sense of style? Where do you find your striking fashion items?
It’s all about confidence and trusting your wilder instincts: stay away from safe. My sense of style is “not-safe!” (And, okay, okay: throw “sometimes sexy” in there as well: I do have a well-known penchant for anything short, slinky, or sheer. Blame it on the formative influence of nineties-era Dolce & Gabbana, Versace, and Gucci.)
Life’s too short to look like everyone else, so even my everyday pieces are a bit outrageous! I get recognized all the time for my glasses (pale-pink Rapp cateyes, or Cutler & Gross gray round frames) and the massive 1940s amethyst cocktail ring I wear every day.
I always incorporate at least a few eye-catching, unique pieces per outfit, whether it’s a colourful scarf, a chunky necklace, a print dress, a big-ass pair of heels, or some texture, like sequins, cashmere, or silk. (And I wear some form of vintage every day.)
As an example, I think that one of my most outrageous ensembles (pictured here) was also one of my best. On paper, pairing just a bra with a lacey vintage bolero, paperbag-waisted capris, red leather mules, long silver earrings, and a vintage hat sounds a bit crazy, but when it works, it works.
I try and avoid shopping at chain stores anymore, preferring instead to buy from independent designers (especially Canadian!), and vintage pieces. Some of my best treasures came from sources as diverse as a Nashville vintage store, high-end boutiques, the Hamilton Value Village, sample sales, hand-me-downs, roadside garage sales, my late mother’s jewelrybox, clothing swaps…
You post about fashion on blogTO – perhaps the most challenging audience for fashion news in the city. How do you deal with all the disparaging comments?
The majority of the nasties are just writing a knee-jerk response without reading carefully what I’m saying. I always make sure to point out the good parts about stores and fashion shows, rather than harping on about what I hate about them, but people still often accuse me of being a snobby jerk. I kind-of am, but, ironically, I’m careful not to rage as much as I might like on stores or shows that aren’t my style—they might be someone else’s!
What fashion writers do you admire and find inspiration from? What qualities does a good fashion writer have?
Probably my favourite fashion writer is Andre Leon Talley of Vogue. I’m in complete awe of his fashion knowledge: he reels off past collections and trends in his show coverage so breezily. He’s also lived such a glam life, traveling, interviewing, and hanging out with the best fashion minds of our time (and wearing ridiculous outfits—the man swathes himself in massive capes, for god’s sake).
But the best part is his humbleness and passion: even though he’s been doing this for decades, his enthusiasm is unwavering. That to me is the single-most important quality a fashion writer needs: excitement! So many fashion industry people are so jaded (and, frankly, cranky), despite the fact that they get to write about clothes and, essentially, art for a living.
Would you ever consider starting your own fashion blog? Why or why not?
I have been pondering this for quite some time, and have a whole concept worked out, even! I’ve just hesitated taking the plunge because, as a freelance writer in the current climate, it seems a little reckless to embark on yet another unpaid venture. The Internet is also glutted with so-called fashion blogs, so I’d want to make sure that my voice was loud enough to be heard over the din. I think the focus is unique enough, and my passion strong enough, to get it going, but what form it will take remains to be seen!
Describe the proudest moment in your career so far.
It’s often the firsts in my career that have stuck with me, the ones where I remember grinning and tearing up a little, or squealing and jumping up and down, as I held the new issue in my hand, including: my first published article (a pair of movie reviews in my university paper), my first magazine piece (a tiny sidebar in Seattle magazine), my first article in a fashion magazine (an interview with Jay Manuel in ELLE Canada), and my first few fashion stories (covering Fashion Week for blogTO, and writing about film fashion for ELLE Canada).
Really, there is so much talent in the world, and I just feel lucky to write about it!