In today’s society, being pro-culture has become a new way of life that most people have appreciated. We have learned to appreciate the person we see when we look in the mirror, we have learned to support our dreams by denying our fears and best of all, we are learning to support the business that lies in our own community. For years, the black dollar has been powerful and for years we have created some things that the world realized it couldn’t live without. We got the opportunity to sit with Don Jackson of Smith and Lee Handmade, A handmade luxury brand that brings class and power to the culture.
Tell us about your brand Smith and Lee Handmade.
Smith and Lee Handmade at its root, is a Family Owned Luxury Minimalist Brand. We specialize in exotic luxury leather goods that are designed for people who live their lives from a minimalist perspective. As society continues to evolve, we believe that people will begin to rid themselves of stuff. Stuff that clutters their lives, stuff that has no meaning nor value and we want to be there for them. Smith and Lee Handmade wants to provide beautiful leather pieces for the newfound minimalist to put their necessities in, such as ID, debit card, insurance card, credit card and cash.
How much of YOU is in this brand?
Although it is a family owned brand, I created it, so the entire brand is me. I am a minimalist, I don’t like stuff. I don’t find value in stuff. I find value in people, places, and experiences. So when creating this brand, I wanted people to carry my products with them as they enjoyed other people, different places and a multitude of experiences.
When did you realize there was a void in our community that needed to be filled?
Another reason why I created the brand is the fact that as African Americans, we do not have many representations in the fashion or luxury goods market. We have talented black models, designers, and creatives, but not many owners. Yes, there is Karl Kani, Sean John, and the great Virgil Abloh, but how many of us are wearing Sean John or Karl Kani? How many African American owned brands can we honestly name and say that we wear proudly? More than likely none. For some reason, as African Americans, we find more value, if not the most value from items made by Europeans. We do not know the cost of production for these items but will still shell out sometimes more than $1,500 for a bag that only cost $20 to make. It’s absurd. So, I wanted to provide an alternative. Italian leather goods are some of the best in the world, however, African American leather goods are coming for that recognition with Smith and Lee Handmade leading the charge.
How do you select your fabrics?
I select my leather randomly. I believe that this gives me true creative freedom. I do not go by trends or style guides. I simply go off of what makes me feel good. So if this red Alligator wallet makes me feel good when I look at it, then it is what I’m adding to the inventory. Same process for designing items. I try to keep the items small, beautiful and to the point. My products are made with the point of having a purpose.
What sets your brand apart from other luxury brands?
What sets Smith and Lee Handmade apart is our true price model. I charge based off of labor and materials. So you can expect that none of my items will surpass more than $200, despite what others are charging. For example, LV charges $2,000 for an alligator wallet, meanwhile, I can make the same exact wallet and only charge $100. There is no reason at all that their wallet cost $2,000, however, LV has mastered the illusion that if an item costs an unattainable price, its value is validated and that is not the case at all. I don’t want to hurt my customer’s pockets. That’s wack.
Describe the Smith and Lee Handmade Experience.
It’s hard to describe the Smith and Lee Handmade experience. I guess dope would be the word. For example, we can make your items custom. We also walk you through the process, providing pictures, videos, and explanations. We want you involved in the process. No secrets over here!
What legacy would you like to leave?
As far as my legacy is concerned, well I don’t know. I’ve got too many things going on to even think about that right now, so I guess that can be legacy-ish. A man with so much to do than worry about himself was the last thing on his mind.
Check out the full inventory of Smith and Lee Handmade here.