It’s a dream many of us have, to turn your passion into a job. For Miriama Grace-Smith, it’s become a reality.
“I’ve always been obsessed with shoes,” she tells me. “I’ve always loved clothes and shoes, and I’m lucky enough to have been able to turn my hobby into a job”.
Luck may not have too much to do with it. Her mother is an award-winning writer of screenplays and short stories, and an actor, and her father works on film sets. Miriama’s childhood was spent surrounded by creative types. “I grew up around artists, writers and musicians, so that world was normal to me.” A creative life wasn’t just written in the stars – it was in her blood.
Grace-Smith studied visual arts at Whitireia Polytech for a year after leaving school. She also has a BA in Fine Arts from Massey University. After finishing art school, she painted some canvases on commission and began customising vintage clothing, streetwear and skateboards. Grace-Smith has also worked as a wardrobe designer on the feature film The Pa Boys, and says it was “amazing,” to see her work on the big screen.
Inspired by native flora and fauna, she began designing an off-the-peg streetwear range of t-shirts, sweatshirts, bomber jackets and bucket hats, and opened a Facebook page. Word soon got out, and the orders flowed in. It was time to move into bigger premises.
The result is Foresight Clothing. She and her builder/musician partner Jack Crombie have been building their business over the past few years, starting off in the old fish and chip shop in Paekakariki. Last November they moved into Cuba St, next to San Francisco Bathhouse. They love the area, and find the community very supportive.
As well as Grace-Smith’s own designs, Foresight Clothing represents other local artists and designers, including Dirty South from Raumati South, Sam Phillips from Paraparaumu, jewellery by Roni Stigsdottin, stone carvings by Tim Steel from Pukerua Bay, and works by muralist, glitterest and painter Xoë Hall.
Supporting the Wellington art community is an important part of their philosophy.
“Foresight is envisioning the future, where you want to be and what you want to become and believing that you can bring that vision to life. We need foresight to believe that all our hard work will eventually pay off, and that’s why we reckon that Foresight is a brand for everyone.
“Reactions to our street wear have been really positive. Cliff Curtis has been walking around in one of our hoodies. And Heath Manukau from Nesian Mystik was wearing our Mango bucket hat at One Love NZ Festival – whoop whoop!”
It was the shoes that did it for me, however. Her glitzy, sparkly, crazy over-the-top designs sent me into a rapture I hadn’t felt since a diamante stiletto-heeled purchase in a moment of weakness a few years back.
“The shoes do attract a lot of attention”, says Miriama. “People stop to look at them first, then they check out the rest of the stock”.
Her shoes caught the eye of Kiwi company Cindy Heels, who had her customize some of their heels. She has gone on to customize footwear for private clients, who bring in a favourite pair of heels or boots. She likes to talk to each client and get a “feel” for what they want. “The shoes inspire me. Each shoe has its own personality.” Her custom decoration has incorporated collage using comic book strips, beads, and glitter; the materials have entailed “a whole lot of trial and error.”
Grace-Smith is also involved in a collaborative working studio and exhibition space, and is one of seven Maori women artists exhibiting at present at Toi Wāhine HQ in Porirua, in a show featuring multimedia artists, jewellery artists, and filmmakers. Miriama says she is very stimulated by the collective. “I have started learning Maori design through tattoo artists, ta moko, and find it very inspiring in my own work”.
Hmm, which pair of shoes will I subject to her dynamic designs?