Marcus and Faith Smith, a brother-sister clothing design team, stand in the garage that serves as their studio in Northeast El Paso. The pair is in New York to show their designs during Fashion Week. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

An El Paso-based Black-owned business is getting national recognition this week during the iconic New York Fashion Week.

Owned by brother-and-sister duo Faith and Marcus Smith, Imperial Legacy Clothing is featured in the “Emerging Artist” category and will showcase two different clothing collections over two days.

“We can literally dress you head to toe,” said Faith Smith, 32. “We’re excited, it’s a big opportunity. But it’s also a lot of emotions, like we’re excited, anxious or stressed.”

The siblings said they’re excited for the opportunity to expand their clientele and business. But part of their mission includes honoring their heritage and raising awareness about social issues.

Aside from their fashion week collections, Marcus Smith, 40, said all of their lines incorporate various issues such as mental health or Black history.

“We have ‘Feelings,’ which is a mental health-based series. Each color represents a different feeling: happiness, sadness, anger, envy and love,” Marcus Smith said.

The business was originally going to be featured during last year’s fashion week but the event was postponed due to the pandemic. Though this year’s event will be slightly scaled down, the company still has the opportunity to raise its profile.

“It’s going to allow us to be seen by the right people, in a crowd of people who are going to accept what we do,” Marcus Smith said.

“They’re going to see our vision and what we stand for because Imperial Legacy is more than fashion,” Faith Smith added.

Faith Smith displays shirts featuring the bright colors and bold patterns that are a signature of Imperial Legacy Clothing, the design company she founded and owns with her brother, Marcus. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

After traveling the world with their military father, the Smiths have called El Paso home for more than 10 years. They said the most important part of their work is the ability to create a legacy for their families.

“Especially for Black people, we’re not born into the country with a lot of assets and things like that. You have to create everything,” Marcus Smith said. “I think it’s important to show, especially to youth, that it’s possible to come from nothing and make whatever you want, as long as you stay focused and determined.”

Imperial Legacy’s clothing lines feature bright colors and bold patterns, which the Smiths said is part of their branding.

“Our clothes are a lot of living out loud with bright colors, self expression,” Faith Smith said. “When you wear Imperial Legacy that’s you taking charge of who you are, and you’re choosing to step out and watch the beat of your own.”

In New York, they will be debuting their Rembrandt and Scripted SINZ collections.

The Rembrandt line is an ode to their mother and aunt who not only taught them about fashion, but were fashionistas themselves.

“I base a lot of colors on things I remember my mother and aunt wearing. So you’ll see teal, rich reds, purple; those were (their) favorite colors,” said Marcus Smith.

Scripted SINZ features elements of cursive, an idea Marcus Smith said came after learning that type of writing was no longer taught in some public schools and could not easily be read by youth.

“We should bring that back in a different way,” he said.

Marcus Smith is the older sibling and the artist behind the clothing line. His sister handles the business and administration sides of Imperial Legacy.

“I’ve been an artist since I was a kid,” Marcus Smith said. “’I’ve always tried to do little things here and there.” 

Started five years ago, the business first started selling T-shirts that featured Marcus’s original sketches and designs.

“It was random stuff. But we went from T-shirts and kept moving forward to where we are now,” he said. 

Marcus Smith stands in the garage where he and his sister, Faith, operate their design company, Imperial Legacy Clothing. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

With an eight-year age difference between them, the pair said it can be challenging but rewarding to work together. They currently work out of their shared home in Northeast El Paso.

“Sometimes we are on the same page and we’re like yin and yang,” Faith Smith said. “And then sometimes we can’t stand each other. But no matter what, we get the job done.”

Marcus, who originally had the idea of a family business, said there was a bigger picture to it. 

“Yeah she’s my sister, she’s younger, she gets on my nerves, but it’s important for us to show everyone that not only can a Black business be very successful, but a brother-sister business be successful,” he said.

Now with over 10,000 followers on Instagram, the business has been featured in local fashion shows in Oklahoma and San Antonio.

They also are a part of the Council of Fashion Designers of America directory, which has highlighted over 400 American designers’ work since its creation in 1962.

They hope the trip to New York helps propel them toward international success. 

“Our next thing would be doing Fashion Week in London, Paris, Milan. That’s what we’re striving for,” Faith Smith said. 

Cover photo: Marcus and Faith Smith, a brother-sister clothing design team, stand in the garage that serves as their studio in Northeast El Paso. The pair is in New York to show their designs during Fashion Week. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

Jewél Jackson covers higher education for El Paso Matters, through a partnership with Open Campus Media. She is a 2020 graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.