Photo courtesy of Street Lotto

Fashion designer Keith “Street Lotto” Smith is unlike any other. Besides his unique designs and approach to fashion, Smith’s introduction to the fashion world is what’s most intriguing. The typical fashion stylist may cite influences from their favorite fashionista that caused them to pursue fashion, but Smith’s passion originates from pain and struggle as a young outsider who eventually turned to the drug game.

Rolling out caught up with Smith to learn just exactly how he made his way from the drug industry into the fashion industry.

Where did your love for fashion originate?

My love for fashion originated when I was a young boy. I always wanted the freshest fit I could fathom. I was always a big kid. The girls used to like the little guys, they called them cute. The big black guys like myself were always the “intimidators”, “loudmouths”, “go- to for protection”- but never the cute guy. I had no control over that, however, I could be the freshest dude in my class. My mom would get me Izod Lacoste, Jordache, Guess, Generra, etc. What she couldn’t buy, she’d “make” for me with her sewing machine. I learned how to be creative early.

Where did the name “Street Lotto” come from?

The name Street Lotto came from my days in the drug game, when I was at my highest height (2000- 2003). For the 1st time in life, I’d meet entertainers, business owners, A&Rs, execs, studio owners, etc, that were in the game getting it just like me. I’m thinkin’ “d—-, he’s on TV, or the radio, and he’s living no better than me.” Or “wow, I just loaned him some money or fronted him because he was short- yet he supposed to be the one?” But I was realizing how much we were all risking it all just to hit it big to finance our dreams. I mean, ain’t no bank financing rap careers, and most of our parents didn’t have it or believe in our choice of career path enough to even consider. So I saw it as the “Street Lotto”. I figured, who knew and could rep the life better than me?

How would you describe your style?

I’m a man that is very comfortable in his own skin. I don’t use fashion to mask me; it only accessorizes what I already am. It is an extension of my mental state and thought process. I always look at people’s choice of fashion and my first thought is always “What is he/she trying to say?”?That’s just the way I see things.

What’s the greatest project you’ve worked/been featured on?

The greatest project that I’ve worked on or been featured is without a doubt is OOOG Brand. I’ve worked with multi-platinum artist, traveled the country, been involved with projects with Coca-Cola and Apple, but nothing has came close to the impact and influence of OOOG Brand. It’s not because OOOG is the greatest brand the world has ever seen. It’s because OOOG ain’t about me. It doesn’t glorify Lotto, like my raps did. OOOG is the Omnipotent Opportunities Of God. The Word says when you put Him first all things shall be added to you. And at this point, I can’t disagree.

What is your ultimate goal in fashion?

The purpose of my brand is not specific to fashion. Fashion is a marketing tool to spread the awareness of our platform. I’m interested in education, music, television, film, philanthropy, and not preaching, spreading the love and Omnipotent Opportunities of God.

What has been the greatest lesson you’ve learned while being an entrepreneur?

It cost to be the boss- and you gone pay! Whether it’s your time, money, sacrificed relationships, health,etc. With each blessing comes a burden. That’s why we express through our designs on our clothes, success is Earned Not Given.

Do you think there are any widely held misconceptions about what you do? If so, what are they and how do you work to dispel them?

Yes, I do. People come to me all the time wanting to start up a brand with no direction or real concept as to what they want to do. What do you want to project? What’s the mission? What’s its purpose? Impact? What people miss is what most of us miss because we don’t live through the process of success, we only see the harvest once reaped, and it doesn’t begin to paint a clear understanding of what that process looks like so we downplay people’s successes. If people knew how that product came about. How many conversations we had about it before we drew the mock, or produced a sample. When you produce products for consumption, the goal should never be to make a product that people want. No! You will never make money unless you’re producing a product people gotta have!

What separates you from others in your field? What is unique to the experience you create?

To be honest, I really don’t know my competitors. I don’t pay that much attention. I’m focused on the mission laid out in front of me, so it’s hard to focus on my peripheral. For me, your mentality is your reality. You are where you are, if that makes sense. I’m just focused on being the best I can be where I am. It’s a very creative time for us! What most people don’t know is the bulk of what we create is based on nothing more than conversation me and my partner and creative director, Stace Lace have with one another. The end game is to always be doing what we like and not what they do.

For those considering entering this arena, what skill sets do you recommend mastering? What traits are most conducive to success?

It’s a process. Understand, I said my creativity was born from having to dress myself up to make myself more appealing in my younger years. I said I got my name from the drug  game. Now in that game I learned the value of superior product- so I’m focused on quality; knowing my customers. Developing personal relationships with your consumer base is more important than product itself. Customer service- if it ain’t right bring it back  “we’ll swap it out” (let’s people know you stand on your product). Accounting, etc. I could go on for days. But I will say this: In my days as an artist, I never really had a manager, marketing department, A&R, or nothing. I had to do it myself. Overtime, I’m learning how to market myself, what works, what doesn’t, etc. At the end of the day, you are your brand, and all the things you go through that you have to work your way through are the tools necessary for your chosen trade.

Nia Chantal

Journalist. Actress. Music Lover. Concert- Goer. Travel Enthusiast. Beauty Addict. Just a Southern girl living life to the fullest. Follow my journey on Instagram @niachantal