Milton Smith of Tailored Heritage Posted on 12 Mar 13:00 | Creative Pioneers
This is Milton Smith – photographer, art director and 1/3 of Tailored Heritage, a Bay Area creative content collective focused on creating cultural dialogue. We sat down with Smith to hear what brought the three of them together, their commitment to storytelling through the lens of cultural diversity, and what it means to him to be a Creative Pioneer.
Photography by: Tailored Heritage
Words by: Justin Ryan Kim
As first-generation Americans, the three friends and co-founders of Tailored Heritage – Cesar, Umar, and Milton – were able to find common ground in their backgrounds and association to identifying as ‘other.’
“I mean, we identify as American, but we also identify as other. We're all brown, black, white - we grew up with family members speaking other languages, and family from other countries, our parents grew up in other countries, so they have a completely different perspective. But we also grew up in American culture, so that's very much a part of us, but I think having that diversity of our background that brings us all together and that's why we dealt with it so well.”
With an inherent need to tell stories, the collective’s approach to storytelling was to highlight the commonalities in people rather than their differences. In doing so, Tailored Heritage was born.
“We had this inherent need in each of us to want to reach out to other cultures and create a dialogue between cultures and build Bridges. That's kind how we started everything, so I think it all stems from that, it's like this inner curiosity to want to reach out to other people or to show that people have differences but they also have a lot of things in common. We want to help others realize humanity in others.”
More alike than different.
This is a phrase that resonated the most amongst the collective.
“I remember when that actually happened our buddy who's now our project manager approached us about doing our first gallery.”
After countless ideas were thrown in, a common consensus was made. The show was to be focused on their family histories, bringing a variety of mixed media together to show that they were “more alike than different.”
Soon after their first show, Tailored Heritage began taking on more freelance and contract work, allowing them to grow not only in there artistic skillsets, but also opening up opportunities to become more independent as a collective.
“We should make it about us and about what really matters to us, and you know the first thing we thought about was family, like our moms. We’re all mama’s boys for sure and we all think the world of our mamas, so it was this interesting moment when we all realized that our families’ history and culture would be the best way to highlight who we were. - I remember, I just kept going on and on with different names, until it came out, more alike than different. The whole team was like, Woah, you just said it, that’s the name of the show. So not only was it the name of our show, but it also sort of became our mantra, because that’s what we are about, creating cultural dialogue through each of our perspectives.”
It was their passion for creating “cultural dialogue” that made them the Creative Pioneers they are today.
“You know, people look at our branding, and they think that they’re just cool guys following a trend or something. But honestly, we don’t really care too much about it because we know that there is a larger picture to it all.”
The collective follows a simple principle - that a story starts at the beginning, on the inside, at the center. “We don’t really look at the outside, it’s what’s inside that defines a brand, and who they are, the outside can always change.” Smith shared a few stories on how their approach to branding is similar to how they maneuver as a collective. Highlighting that, like a family or a group of friends or individuals, there are so many layers to what makes them, them. Oftentimes perceptions, although influenced by themselves are created by those around them, it’s only when they are able to internally process these new ideas that they are able to make them their own.
“Growing in our own voice in our narrative, our perspective is really all that matters to us, and it’s hard. You know in this day and age; social media is everywhere, imagery stories, information, everything is so accessible, everything is so curated and made to appeal to an audience.”
It’s this very fact that has motivated the collective to push Tailored Heritage. In sharing authentic narratives, the collective continues to strive to tell and share cultural dialogue, whether it’s their own or their clients’.
On being a Creative Pioneer...
“Thanks, that's an amazing compliment, we’ll definitely take that. I think we're creators. You know, and I think we're connectors, and I think we're people that can make a change in whatever small way. That's where we come in...that's our job to create around this idea. This identity that if we understand and we recognize each others' differences, we're just going to be better off for it, and we're going to be stronger as a society.
People look at our work and our branding projects and think, oh that’s cool. But honestly, I don’t care much about that because I know that there’s a larger picture, you know, we don’t really look at the outside. People do things for the outside, so when it comes to my own opinions and perspectives, I inherently look to who I am and where I come from, whether it be my family or my families' history. I think it’s important that I do things that feel and come naturally to me. I try not to think or wonder about who else is going to be watching me.
It’s a struggle you know? There are so many things I’ve done or put out with the guys, that I look back at in retrospect and think, man, we definitely could have done that better. But at the same time, it just wouldn’t feel organic to who I am and who we are as a team. We want our work to develop and grow, that’s not really something you hear from people or brands. But growing in our narrative and in our voice is what matters at the end of the day.
We don’t adhere to the world. We have our goals and the dreams we’ve been following since we were kids and that’s it. That’s what we believe and that’s how we continue to intend to be.”