For Annapolis artist and clothing designer Kaeli Smith, inspiration is everywhere. In the past ten years, Smith has created original designs that embody the quintessential Annapolis lifestyle. From the landmarks of her hometown to the water in her backyard, Smith’s art graces everything from tote bags to note cards, and now, men and women’s apparel.
Smith’s latest venture, Smith and Quinn, offers sophisticated, yet casual clothing for men and women that embrace her bold, colorful aesthetic. The brand also recently expanded into bridal wear.
“I’ve always loved clothing and fashion, and while I began licensing my designs years ago, Smith and Quinn is a lifestyle brand that allows our longtime customers to grow with us,” Smith says of her expanding business.
Always an Artist
Growing up, Smith showcased her artistic talents from an early age. “My mom says that I came out of the womb with a pen in my hand.” From hand painting beads at age twelve, to crafting with her mother, Smith always found new ways to create art.
As a student at St. Mary’s High School, she began painting cityscapes of her hometown. Soon, her artwork was being sold in area galleries for high prices, an experience she describes as ‘surreal.’ Smith then expanded her artwork to home décor, partnering with major brands like Bed, Bath and Beyond to create original designs for their home goods. While still in high school, she licensed her work, an endeavor that allowed her to brand herself from a young age.
The Start of Apparel Design
In college Smith pursued an art degree, but eventually switched her major to apparel design in order to explore fashion. Smith’s father Andy began hand printing her designs on all their fabrics, which lead to a small line of preppy style clothing that would be the basis for her fashion collection.
Things took off even more when a buyer from Dillard’s spotted Smith’s designs and approached her about creating a boutique collection for the Arkansas-based department store.
“We liked working in the department store world, but we weren’t ready for it,” Smith says candidly. She admits that the industry side of fashion was tough to maintain during college, with designers expected to attend shows and regular industry events. While Smith’s father handled the business aspect, they both agreed in 2016 that a return to boutique sales was a better fit for her brand.
In the past five years, Kaeli Smith has focused her fashions on performance fabrics with vivid designs. Her Annapolis roots play a large role in the choices she makes, and she celebrates the preppy, coastal look that her customers want.
“I started out painting Annapolitan scenes and it gave me the confidence to break into what I do now. I want to have my own vibe, but I embrace the local community and its lifestyle,” Smith says. Indeed, Smith prides herself on creating clothing that is not only stylish, but practical as well.
“One of the reasons we work with performance fabrics is that they are ideal for summer and boating—I love designing things that people want to wear.”
Getting into Golf
Kaeli Smith also began working with the golf industry, creating custom artistic prints for apparel and merchandise for some of the nation’s top golf courses, resorts and boutiques. It was an undertaking that earned her the prestigious award of “Best New Product” at the PGA Merchandise show in 2019.
“Getting into the golf industry was so much fun,” Smith says. “I love sitting down with a major club and drawing their clubhouse, their signature cocktail, and finding ways to promote their property in a fun and attractive way.”
Bridal Wear and Menswear
The same year that Smith began working with golf courses and top resorts, she was also planning her wedding to husband, Danny Quinn. She set out to find flattering and vibrant bridesmaid dresses that would suit her fifteen bridesmaids but came up empty-handed.
“I wanted full-length dresses that were elevated, but also worked with the vibe of my wedding. Everything I found was either too expensive or it wasn’t right.”
Naturally, she decided to design her own bridesmaid gowns, and came up with two different designs in a blue and white print titled Zinnia. The dresses, which retail for around $200, are light, airy and in keeping with Smith’s playful style.
Smith’s expansion into bridal wear also spawned a Smith and Quinn menswear line, as she wanted her father and husband to have clothing that showcased her original designs. Smith and Quinn’s boatyard button down and golf polos for men are some of the top sellers on their site.
Shop Smith and Quinn
Named for Kaeli Smith and her business partners, father Andy Smith and husband Danny Quinn, Smith and Quinn’s sportswear and bridal wear is available online and is sold locally in boutiques such as The Cottage and The Painted Cottage. The brand has hopes for a catalogue and retail store in the future, and every piece of clothing boasts Smith’s colorful and fun designs.
The girl with the pen in her hand has no plans to slow down, and continues to produce new dresses, sportswear, and bridal wear for Smith and Quinn. “I’m lucky that our customers have wanted to grow with us and embrace a lifestyle brand that encompasses the whole family,” Smith says. “And my art will always be at the heart of it. It’s who I am.”
By Katie Riley