Part III

May 15, 2022

Eve After Eden: Her Style!!

By Jemi Lassiter

Asha Smith is the self-proclaimed Queen of Thrift. Her hobby of thrifting began at 12 years old and, two decades later, she has developed an eye for fun fashion finds and sought after pieces.

So, I am scrolling though Instagram trying to see what I can see when an explosion of color and attitude appears on my timeline.

 

Her name is Asha Smith. 

 

She is sitting on a charcoal velvet settee with turquoise, fuchsia, and yellow throw pillows. A black and white picture of Paris’ landscape hangs just above her and nothing can compete with the look she is serving. 

 

Hun has a brown and white speckled headwrap covering her natural ‘do, large gold framed glasses resting atop her nose, Bamboo earrings (of the door knocker variety), three gold chains because… Well, just because and a Ruby Woo lip courtesy of MAC.

 

On a Tuesday morning, Asha Smith adorned herself in vintage Vanity Fair and casually sipped tea from an antique glass serving set.

Fun facts first:

  1. Asha Smith is the Queen of Thrift. She owns all of her greatness!

  2. She is a fashion forward front woman; a Sankofa-styled sometimes seamstress who looks back at the greatest the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s had to offer and fairy-godmother-poofs-it into an ensemble that gives what it’s supposed to give. 

  3. She is the bringer-back of vintage pieces in modern states of “Get it, girl”.

  4. And, Smith does not own a full-length mirror. This is a vibes-only stylist.

 

She pulls pieces from her thrifted closet of glamor, her dresser of decadence, her cedar chest of what’s next and tweaks the looks on her bed until they are just right. Then, she throws them on, adds an accessory or two and she is out the door. 

 

At best, Smith has only seen herself from the waist up before she heads out to work as a medical collections liaison or runs errands for her family of six.

 

She does not need the reassurance a full view of her ensemble might have given. She is sure of her choice. Besides, after she broke her second full-length mirror, she swore she would never buy another… And here is where this story begins.

 

“I remember I was up to 200 and something pounds and I was trying on clothes. I couldn’t fit anything,” said Smith of her younger self. 

 

At 25, she welcomed twin girls and became a mother of four. She expected her body to bounce back like it had from her two previous pregnancies with her sons but this time was different. 

 

It took longer for her body to respond to good food choices. It was harder to find time to exercise and rest with newborn twins and school-aged children who required her attention. Life demanded more of her energy and there was little left to put towards restoring her physique.

 

“You’re literally pouring into so many people that you don’t really have that time to focus on yourself as much as you used to or as much as you would like to…. I sacrificed my body to create these four children,” said Smith. 

 

“I was so upset at how I looked and how my body had changed after carrying [twins]. I was so mad. I was so frustrated that I pulled my mirror down and broke it. I literally cleaned it up and I cried. I said I’m not buying another one. I cannot do this to myself because I would be happy [with myself] if I did not look in that mirror. [My body] wasn’t going to go back to being the same. I could do something about it or accept my new reality. That’s what I chose to do. I chose to live in my new reality”

 

When we met, it had been 12 years since she made that decision. Now 37, Smith has found comfort in accepting her body and expresses herself through curated fashion from consignment and thrift shops around the world. 

 

“I don’t have a full length mirror in my house. I only have the mirrors in my bathrooms and a large half mirror. I like to go off of how I feel in the clothes and not how I look. So, if I put something on, it’s because I like it and it feels good to me,” said Smith.

 

Her approach works well. Her style has opened the eyes of longtime friend Lyniyah Forman to the benefits of thrifting.

 

“We met through a mutual friend years ago but we grew closer through fashion,” said Forman. 

 

She credits Smith with introducing her to thrifting.

 

“I was never a thrift girl. I just didn’t know how to but she’s definitely changed the way I look at reasonably priced fashion.”

 

All of Smith’s styles are sourced and curated from consignment shops and thrift stores.

 

“I thrift for any and everybody. I like to take vintage pieces and make them modern, more edgy, bold, fit in today’s world. That’s really what I like,” explained Smith.

 

Thrift stores sell gently used and pre-owned items for a discounted price. The clothes are usually donated to a charitable organization. The sale of the items offset the cost of the organization’s operating expenses or fund a new endeavor.

 

Consignment shops sell new and sometimes gently used or vintage items. Fashion designers place their items for sell with consignment shops and, when the item sales, the shop owner keeps a small percentage of the sale. In some cases, shop owners pay for the items upfront and mark up the price to make a profit. 

 

“The only difference is price point. Thrifting is always cheap and affordable. Consignment is more designer, more expensive, only because [resellers] pay for that inventory. With thrift, everything is donated,” said Smith.

 

From London to Atlanta and all around Baltimore County, Smith has carefully pieced together an aesthetic that showcases who she is and what she loves.

 

“[Asha] has an extremely good eye. She has an innate ability to pick out something that none of us can see how to make work and put it together. The next time we see it, we’re all like, ‘Dag! I should have bought that’,” laughed Forman.

 

Her style is Urban Vintage. 

 

Her color is yellow. 

 

The accessories required above any and all else are a pair of Bamboo earrings. Is anybody else fighting the urge to say, “At least two pair” from LL Cool J’s hit song “Around the Way Girl”?

 

“Bamboo earrings are everything to me. I say all the time, ‘If I’m ever invited to the White House, I’m going to where Bamboo earrings.’”

 

During the time of our interview, Smith’s fashion sense leaned toward Urban Vintage Streetwear. 

 

Vans. 

 

Distressed jeans. 

 

And yes, Bamboo earrings. 

 

I have been watching her Instagram feed since the start of the year to see how she pairs her thrifted hauls. Her attention to detail and charismatic curating inspired me to revisit the Summer of 1992 in DC. A few clicks later and I welcomed my own pair of Bamboo earrings and Reebok Classics with the gum sole. Smirk if you want to, I’m fly! 

On her Instagram, Asha Smith chronicles her thrifted hauls, how she styles them and where she wears them. It's all a part of her approach to thrift education: teaching people how to style thrifted finds without compromising their personal style standards. Smith's style is urban vintage all year-round. She's fun in a red cocktail dress and London Fog rain boots; flirty in a blazer-turned-dress and black stilettos; and ready to kick it in yellow strappy heels, a checkered pencil skirt, black tee, and cat eye sunglasses... All from her thrifted hauls. 

But, back to Asha Smith: 

 

She was introduced to thrifting at 12 when a schoolmate invited her to a Halloween party. Her family did not celebrate the holiday and her parents had no plans to fork over money for a costume but Smith would not be denied.

 

“My mom said, ‘If you make your own costume, you can go.’ And, I said, ‘Say less’.”

 

She went thrifting with her mother and fashioned a costume as a farmer from overalls and a flannel shirt for the party.

 

“While I was in there I was just like this stuff is amazing. From there, it just started my love affair,” said Smith.

 

She enjoyed name brand clothes and shoes while living with her parents. Occasional undercover shopping trips at thrift stores with her own money helped develop her own fashion sense in high school but, when she married at 19, she knew it was time to take her love affair with thrifting semi-public.

 

“I grew up with a love for designer. I wanted the Gucci, the Louis Vuitton, the this, the that. I was definitely a label girl but, when you get married at 19 and 20, you have a kid, you have another kid on the way, those labels go out the door. I really started thrifting really heavy because we were on a budget. Clothes were a necessity,” explained Smith. 

“I learned how to make it luxurious. I learned how to make thrift look like a high end brand. Once I did that, that’s when I started telling the world, ‘It was $3!’,” she laughed. 

 

 

Today, Asha Smith has added thrift educator to the long list of roles she plays in life. 

 

“I consider my [Instagram] page to be thrift education. I’m not selling you anything. I’m literally showing you how to use second hand items — whether it’s an estate sale, whether it’s vintage, whether it’s from the thrift store, or somebody gave it to you — I’m going to show you how to use these second hand items in your everyday life.” 

 

You can catch Smith at her favorite Baltimore County haunts, Value Village and Second Avenue, scanning for new items or checking items off her thrift bucket list.

 

“Every serious thrifter has a Thrift Bucket List or a Unicorn List. It’s a list of things you never come across but you want,” said Smith. 

 

“I once bought a pair of Chanel shoes for $50. They were online for $750. [The pair I bought] had two stains on them, I’m guessing that’s why they were donated. Now, I’m looking for a Coogi sweater and the remaining two of the five-piece light blue Lady Baltimore Luggage Set,” explained Smith.

 

Coogi sweaters hit their peek in the urban fashion market in the mid-90’s when rapper Notorious B.I.G. name dropped the brand in his hit songs “Big Poppa” and “One More Chance”.

 

Lady Baltimore luggage was a mid-century luggage company operating between 1950 and 1970. Their luggage came with a host of accessories and a unique way of opening them.

 

Smith has no plans to slow down. She has just begun posting her Spring 2022 haul on @Mrs.Smith_QueenofThrift.