After being featured at this year’s New York Fashion Week in September, Imperial Legacy Clothing, an El Paso-based, Black-owned business, is experiencing an increase in growth and recognition.

“It was amazing, it was crazy. We had so much going on and we were running around the city, just the two of us, with probably five suitcases. It’s just a whole new world,” said Faith Smith, the business administrator who co-owns the clothing line with brother Marcus Smith.

The founders said the New York experience was one to remember and has catapulted them into more success.

Faith Smith said they showcased two collections to an audience of over 200 people. Some of the audience members included football player Elijhaa Penny and Netflix actress Julia Rehwald

Since the show in New York, the Smiths have attended fashion weeks in San Antonio, Los Angeles and El Paso, and will attend Dallas Fashion Week next month.

“We’ve got a lot more orders,” said Faith Smith. “The (website) has a lot of steady traffic these days and we’ve got a lot of opportunities.”

Business has been going so well that Faith Smith, an English teacher at Andress High School, is thinking about taking a year off to focus exclusively on the business.

Faith Smith and her brother Marcus Smith relive their experiences in fashion shows in New York and other cities this fall. The pair co-founded Imperial Legacy Clothing to bring awareness to issues like mental health. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

The clothing line, which celebrates Black culture and history through its various collections, has been especially well received by other Black designers and audience members, Marcus Smith said. He said it’s important for other Black people to understand his work.

“We have got really good feedback from older Black people that are like, ‘We really love what you guys are doing for the culture because it’s so important for us to remember where we came from,’” Faith Smith said. 

Marcus Smith, the designer of the clothes, said younger Black designers have told him that their work has inspired them.

“Seeing the older generation have the (same) positive reaction that the younger generation has lets us know that we’re on the right track,” Faith Smith said.

As a Black man and rising fashion designer, Marcus Smith said he likes to disprove stereotypes others may have about his work or designs.

Black fashion designers are often underrepresented in the fashion world due to historical racism and beauty standards that have favored white, European characteristics, the New York Times reported. 

“I’m used to always being scrutinized and people judge me for how I look (because they) see my tattoos or something else,” he said. “My favorite part is when we go somewhere new, they don’t know us, and they are starting to judge and then we basically change their opinion.”

Marcus Smith talks about future plans for the design company he co-founded with his sister, Faith, at their home on Nov. 11. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

As an emerging designer, he said he can feel through people’s stares or initial lack of interest that others may doubt his talent and work. He said that all changes after his designs walk the runaway.

“I see it as actions over words,” he said. “You have to look past how I look, how she (Faith) looks, and (instead) look at what the fashion looks like.”

They also said that since going to other fashion weeks, they have been seeing the same designers that they once saw in New York. Marcus Smith said it’s a confirmation that they’re on the right path. 

“We’re in the same circuit,” he said. “It’s a kind of reassurance. … Obviously, we’re on the same path because you are with us again.”

Despite the increasing fame, the siblings said they make sure to keep each other humble and level-headed.

“We keep each other grounded,” Faith Smith said. “If we feel like one of us is out of line, we’re quick to check one another.”

“That’s my job as big brother anyways,” Marcus Smith said with a laugh.

Marcus Smith and his sister Faith Smith relive their experiences in fashion shows in New York and other cities this fall. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

In December, the business will showcase a new collection inspired by Disney character Cruella De Vil. The clothes will only be black and white.

They will return to New York Fashion Week in February. Marcus Smith said they will show a new collection inspired by Valentine’s Day.

For now, they both said they’re taking everything a “day at a time.”

Cover photo: Faith Smith displays a sample of shirts from Imperial Legacy Clothing’s Rembrandt Collection at her home on Nov. 11. (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.