NEW YORK – Designer Andrea Smith was featured in Vogue on March 16 for her recently launched AMS fashion label showcasing Smith’s “thoughtful designs using vintage denim painted with natural dyes.”
Born in Minneapolis and now based in New York, Smith is a third generation Greek-American and spoke to The National Herald about her work, her Greek roots, and her upcoming projects.
TNH: Where in Greece is the family from originally?
Andrea Smith: I’m third generation Greek-American, and was raised in Minneapolis where my great-grandparents settled. Both my maternal and paternal grandmothers’ families were from the village of Niata, in the Peloponnese. My maternal grandfather’s family was from the Island of Samos, and otherwise the Smith in me comes from an American great-grandfather who met his Greek wife in Constantinople. When he brought her back to the states, she met my other two great-grandmothers in Minnesota, and these three women became friends. My paternal great-grandmother is my maternal yiayia’s nouna. I find a lot of comfort in the thought that I am the descendant of both friends and lovers.
TNH: Were you always drawn to the arts and design?
AS: Yes, I’ve never seen myself doing anything else. I’ve been drawing and painting since before I was in school, so it's been a very instinctual pursuit and continued practice that has taken many forms.
TNH: How does your Greek heritage influence your life and work?
AS: I have been very visually inspired by my Greek heritage. My project AMS explores many familiar motifs, myths, and parables crossed between ancient Mythology and Byzantine iconography. As a kid I was confused where one started and the other began between the Gods and the Saints. So I loosely carry this imagery with me and sort of have my own fun with it. I’ve recently started working in ceramics again and am very inspired by Minoan pottery.
In life, my ethnicity feels synonymous with the close ties to my big extended family, providing so many traditions, meals, and family histories we hold dear. I’ve always been proud of it.
TNH: How has the pandemic affected your work?
AS: Having only just passed the one year mark of the pandemic, it feels a bit surreal to sum up— but my ability to fully sustain myself on my work alone has been challenging, like so many other thousands of freelancers. It takes a lot of discipline and self motivation to keep afloat, but I am fortunate to have a practice that allows me to work from home, and an accommodating space here to do so.
TNH: How has your family reacted to your success?
AS: I’m usually really quiet about it, but my family has always supported my pursuit of the arts — I feel very grateful for that. We’ll see when I fully reach it 🙂
TNH: What are you working on next?
AS: Thank you for asking! I have a short coming out with a few friends, directed by Danielle Aphrodite Nemet, that I painted the set backdrop for. In addition to hopefully creating more set work this spring, I have an interior mural project coming up with a friend’s shop downtown.
More information about Andrea Smith and her designs is available online: https://andrea-smith.co/ams.