A conversation with the cool creators of the fire fashion brand Smells Like Crime.
Thank you for taking this interview with us! 'Smells Like Crime' is a really dope name for a fashion brand! How did you come up with the name?
Skye: That’s a funny story! Last March when the pandemic hit, Kinley’s school kicked all of the students out of their dorms, so she packed up her stuff and drove all the way from Philly to Indianapolis to move in with me. By July, I had contracted COVID-19, and as it goes, I completely lost my sense of smell! Kinley and I decided to just quarantine together and get it over with since she was already exposed to me, but I guess Kinley is a superhero because she tested negative and never got sick. All the time spent together gave us copious time to create and brainstorm, and by mid-summer we had dreamt up an idea for an earring company.
In August I helped move Kinley back to Philadelphia, but my final semester was online, and I was so sad to be without her that I ended up traveling back and forth to Philly every few weeks. One day in October, just before we formally launched our company, Me and Kinley and Kinley’s roommate took their dog for a walk. We had all stopped near a curb to let the dog sniff around while we talked, when Kinley suddenly crinkled her nose and said something to the effect of “do you guys smell that?” Her roommate confirmed, but I still couldn’t smell anything, so I said, “what does it smell like?” Kinley laughed and said, “Oh, just Philly things,” to which I responded, “so it smells like crime?” We all busted out laughing and immediately me and Kinley looked at each other and one of us (I can’t remember which) said “That’s the name! And so, we named Smells Like Crime. About a week later we sat on Kinley’s roof and drank coffee while Kinley designed our logo. We launched shortly after that. To be honest, I STILL can’t smell everything yet, but we do have a bomb ass company to make up for it.
What does it mean to be the CEO of your own business?
Skye: For me it means the freedom to set my own schedule, succeed at my own pace, and building a dream with my very best friend. I’d take that over chasing my tail to help someone else build their empire in corporate America any day.
Kinley: Being the CEO of my own brand means being able to take creative liberty one what we put in our store. Being able to decide what I get to create means that I get to push myself every day to be more creative, and never have to worry about someone stifling my creativity! It also means I get to make the decisions on where we source our fabrics and materials (along with my partner + sister, who I know and trust feels the same way as I do!).
You both are sisters which feels like it would be really cool to get to work with someone so close to you! What is it like working with family? Are there any challenges?
Skye: Honestly, it’s been amazing. Partnering with someone to run a business is a huge risk. If you don’t know your partner well or feel comfortable communicating with them, you’re pretty much destined to fail. It’s also really scary agreeing to share profits and losses with someone when you don’t know how hard they’ll work, or whether they’re going to try and ride your coattails to success. Kinley and I are built-in best friends, which is one of the biggest blessings that comes with having a sister. We communicate really well and talk about all of our big decisions before making them, and when we get together to collaborate on ideas, magic happens. Kinley is also one of THE hardest workers I know. There’s never been one day that I’ve had to worry about shouldering the workload – in fact, I’ve worried she will shoulder too much and not tell me if she needs help!
Kinley: Working with my sister has actually been so incredibly easy and fun. Not only do I know her better than any co-worker I’ve ever had before, but I trust her more than anyone. I know EXACTLY how driven, hard working, intelligent, resourceful, and diligent she is. I’ve always considered myself a hard worker, but I don’t compare when it comes to Skye. She truly works harder than anyone I know. Being able to madly respect your partner is so critical because I know she would never make a decision I wouldn’t make. We both push each other creatively and love to bounce new ideas off each other. If one of us gets stuck, the other is there to find a new and more exciting solution. I’m not sure we have come into any challenges working together so far because we both respect and trust each other so much. We also grew up together so we aren’t worried about upsetting each other or disagreeing - we’ve done it before and know how to work through those. This leads to an extremely raw, honest, and real environment where we are truly able to capitalize on our abilities because we don’t hold anything back.
Who are some of your fashion icons that inspire the brand itself?
Skye: I’m not even ashamed to say how much I love Taylor Swift. She’s been an icon for me since I was 14 years old. Taylor is the queen of fashion “eras,” and I’ve always related to that because I feel like a different person with a different style every two years. Sometimes I want to be sparkly and rainbow, other times I want to wear all black and look like I could ruin lives. My moods and where I am in life really inspire my own sense of style, and of course, the creative work I do for SLC.
Kinley: Honestly, I’ve never been someone that’s really into designers (kinda weird for a designer myself I know..) So, with that being said, I just pull inspiration from everyday life or beautiful art that I find on Pinterest. I love trying to create things that are strange or maybe even things that I would’ve been made fun of for wearing in high school. I want my creations to not be for everyone’s style tastes.That’s what makes them special, and I have not really come across many fashion brands like that.
What fashion trend are you loving right now?
Skye: I’m known for high-waisted bottoms and platform boots. Oh, and God bless bell-bottom jeans. I love that retro 70’s vibe.
Kinley: I am honestly super obsessed with corsets over large t-shirts. I’ve been making some funky and unique corsets and have so many new thrifted fabrics that I can’t wait to try them out on.
What is a fashion trend you'd never want to return?
Skye: God forbid ponchos should ever return. I crocheted one once, when I was about 12 (Kinley can confirm). It was hot pink and black. I have many regrets about that.
Kinley: I feel like fashion always eventually comes full-circle. I remember hating the idea of gaucho pants. But now, with a tall boot, oversized shirt and some slick back hair? That’s a vibe. But God PLEASE don’t ever let our society let low rise skinny jeans back in. They don’t look good on anyone and make EVERYONE feel horrible about their beautiful bodies.
What is a day to day look for you ladies?
Skye: Currently, I study full-time because I am prepping for the Bar Exam. I usually read and take practice exams during the day, then at night I switch to video review and I create pieces for SLC while I listen. I go to bed around 12am-2am, then I get up at 7:00-8:00am and repeat. The exam is next week, so I’m sending up prayers for my poor, shot nerves, and manifesting a passing score. After that, I plan to create nonstop, which is what I’ve been dreaming of doing since last summer. I’ll also do lots of hiking, reading for leisure, and re-discovering myself without a legal textbook at my nose.
Kinley: Right now I work full-time as a nanny, while taking a gap year in my fashion design degree due to COVID. I work from 8am-4pm and then come home, eat some dinner and hopefully have enough energy to create something before going to bed and doing it over again. Next year, while I’m in my senior year of college, I will be a golfer, RA on campus, juggling a full-time student class schedule, applying for scholarships, working on job applications, and using any free time I have left to create as much as I can for SLC.
Could you describe the person who is buying and wearing the brand?
Skye: The best part about our brand is that it is fully and comprehensively inclusive of ALL people, so literally everyone can wear it. Ultimately though, we think it tends to attract the more unorthodox humans. Our goal starting out was to create clothes and jewelry for people who don’t fit in with the normal crowds. Kin and I never felt like we fit in growing up, and we’ve actually been bullied for outfits we’ve worn.True story, some girl actually made fun of Kinley in her high school graduation speech for wearing red high heels to the ceremony! I about came out of my chair.
We hope that SLC provides a safe haven for people of any size, shape, gender, race, and orientation, to find bold, statement pieces that express who they are, not force them into a box of what society considers “normal” and “acceptable.”
Kinley: I couldn’t have said it better than Skye. I got bullied a lot in high school for the strange and weird outfits I would put together. One time, a teacher made fun of my white socks and brown 70s style sandal wedges combination -in-front of the whole class. Like literally told me that it was ugly, not in style and weird. (Okay Karen, but pop off on your justice lace tank top layered underneath your tight, low circle-neck t-shirt *eye roll*). Other times girls would walk behind me in the halls and make fun of other funky outfit combinations.
I create clothes for people like me. I want people to feel validated in their crave for unique, unorthodox and sometimes downright funky styles. I want to give people like my high school self a voice in the fashion industry that brings out their wild, beautiful, true selves. I want people to be able to breathe in the clothes they wear and think “Ahh... yep. This is who I am on the inside and now everyone can see and understand that without me having to say a word.”
What is the motto of your company?
Skye: We haven’t established an exact motto/mission statement yet, but we have a very in-depth vision for SLC. Kinley and I have struggled to find clothes and jewelry that express who we are, especially from companies that do quality work and treat our planet with love. It was the great dearth of bold, out-there fashion for work and other formal/special occasions that first sparked SLC. I don’t want to wear a black or blush-pink suit to work. I want to wear red & pink stripes, or a pair of giant butterfly earrings. That doesn’t make me LESS of a hard worker, and it certainly doesn’t make me less professional – whatever that means. I don’t want to put on a mask to go to work – I want to look professional while still allowing everyone to catch a glimpse of who I am inside. To capture that idea, we like to say that SLC is a place with “clothes & jewelry for the outlandish and unorthodox.”
Kinley: ^^ what she said.
What is the most important takeaway you want to give people about yourselves?
Skye: It’s definitely true that we’re doing this because we love to create, but more importantly, we’re creating SLC because we’re passionate about every type of person having a place in the world. We don’t care if we ever become wildly successful or famous, we just want to create a brand where the out-of-the-box humans can self-express, and where they can feel accepted and included.
Kinley: This is honestly a difficult one. As someone that prides themself on doing what I do for me and my sanity, it’s hard to say I want others to think specific things about me. I want others to understand that their bodies are beautiful, no matter what they look like or what size they are. I want them to feel special, celebrated, validated, loved and important. So, what idea about myself do I want to leave with others? .. I guess that would simply be that I want them to KNOW without a doubt, that I genuinely care. I genuinely want to do good. I genuinely want to help and provide a platform for underprivileged people and those that feel unaccepted and unloved, in any way that I can. If it means trying to empower them with what I create, then that’s what I will do. I want to build people up, try to give them strength and confidence through how they see themselves and how they feel in what they wear. I want them to know that I genuinely care about the environment and I hope they are able to see all of these things from our diligent work to create an inclusive, sustainable and loving environment through our handmade products and sustainably sourced materials.
How can our audience go and support 'Smells Like Crime' and follow you on social media for any upcoming releases?
Definitely check us out on Instagram @smellslikecrime – That’s where we interact with our audience the most, and it’s where all of our releases and big news gets posted first! We also have a Facebook Page (Smells Like Crime), and a tiktok (smellslikecrime) where we post lots of creation-process videos. Lastly, make sure to visit our official website, itsmellslikecrime.com, to place any orders!