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May 28, 2024

Introducing Julez Smith

Introducing Julez Smith

Technically, there was still a day of shows left on the New York Fashion Week fall 2024 calendar after Raul Lopez showed his Luar collection in Bushwick. But when Julez Smith took to the runway—capping roughly 40 minutes of frenzied chatter, incessant camera flashes, and disbelief at the sight of his mother, Solange; grandmother, Ms. Tina Knowles; and aunt, Beyoncé—it was all but over. What could top that? While some Vogue editors are still recovering, Smith barely had time to take off his oversized leather Luar blazer before he was off to his next gig: walking for Versace in Milan.

Though apples sometimes fall quite far from the tree, that 19-year-old Smith would develop a penchant for fashion was perhaps inevitable. “It came pretty naturally,” he tells Vogue of his industry aspirations. “Growing up, my grandma was doing costumes for my auntie and my mom, and I think my mom is one of the best-dressed people in the world. I just wanted to be fly and keep up with them—but I wanted to be on the modeling side.”

On a rainy afternoon in Brooklyn, Smith, who recently signed with Next Management, is embracing the start of his career in front of the camera. He wears a Bottega Veneta shirt and tie with the same ease that he dons a Wales Bonner sweatshirt. “I really like that zip-up,” he says, pointing to a leather Loewe jacket; the confident, casual lean he settles into when he puts the piece on further confirms this.

Ahead, more from our shoot with Julez Smith—including his favorite designers, the music on his playlist, and what he dreamed of doing before becoming a model.

Vogue: You’ve spent time living in Houston, New Orleans, and New York, but you were born in Los Angeles. What do you love about your hometown?

Julez Smith: The South kept me humble and gave me a good, strong foundation. My whole family is from out there, so it’s home; it’s where I feel the most secure. Everybody is so nice there, and the food is good. They feed you in Houston.

Did you go to traditional schools growing up, or were you homeschooled?

I went to school. I played basketball growing up, so that was always a big factor when picking a school. I always wanted to play for the school that had the best team. I was really a hooper—I thought I was going to the NBA.

And now you’re pursuing modeling. Tell us about your runway debut at Luar—how did that come about?

I’ve been wanting to model for a couple of years, it just never really worked out. Luar was really my breakthrough. I was actually interning with them for a couple of months, and maybe like a week before the show they were just like, “Come to the casting.” So I went to the casting and I got it.

Smith wears a Loewe jacket and jeans, Miu Miu T-shirt, and CAMPERLAB shoes.

Photographed by Andy Jackson. Styled by Ian McRae.

What were you doing as an intern?

Anything they needed. Helping them out around the office, helping them style people, boxing things up; regular intern stuff.

The Luar show generated so much buzz and excitement. What was that night like for you?

It was jam-packed and nerve-racking, but it was a lot of fun. It was good to have my family there to support.

How did you learn how to walk a runway? Did somebody coach you?

Nah, nobody coached me—I just spent a lot of time walking on the street like I was on a runway, and walking around my house. And my mom and my grandma were pretty consistent; they were like, “Practice, practice, practice.” I also watched a lot of runway videos on YouTube and saw how the models were so locked in. That’s how I learned.

Did any of the shows you watched stand out?

Virgil’s last show for Louis Vuitton—I probably watched that once a week. I love that show.

Smith wears a Bottega Veneta coat, shirt and tie, and Gucci jeans.

Photographed by Andy Jackson. Styled by Ian McRae.

What are some of the benefits of entering this space as someone who comes from an incredibly creative and successful family?

Growing up, my mom and aunt were doing photo shoots every other week, and I saw how jam-packed and busy it was. It’s good to already understand, Okay, you’re going to have to get up early, be on time, and work long hours. And everything moves really fast. It’s work, but I like it.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I’m trying to implement more working out into my routine, so I get up and play basketball for a couple of hours. Later I hang out with my friends, try to eat good food. It’s a bad habit, but I eat a lot of fried seafood: catfish, shrimp, hush puppies…

Well, you are from Houston, and you have lived in New Orleans.

Yeah, but I’m trying to limit that.

What music are you listening to right now?

I’ve been listening to a lot of Cleo Sol and Marvin Gaye. I’m a pretty chill person for the most part, but rap wise, I listen to a lot of Veeze and Babyface Ray—a lot of guys from Detroit.

Smith wears a Wales Bonner suit, necklace and ring by Bernard James

Photographed by Andy Jackson. Styled by Ian McRae.

And what are you watching?

Empire was my show growing up, but I’m more of a movie guy. I like Queen & Slim, Gone Girl, Prisoners—those suspenseful movies.

You’ve been wearing your hair in braids for a while. Have you had a chance to try Cécred?

Yeah, my grandma tested it out on my hair before it came out. It’s really good.

How would you describe your personal style?

I wear mostly streetwear and lots of baggy stuff, but I’m starting to get into high fashion—the Dries Van Noten, the Prada tees, the Loewe jackets. I like to be comfy but still fly. I rock sweats probably five days out of the week.

They’re probably nice sweats though.

Yeah—they’re nice sweats, for sure.

In this story: makeup, Sena Murahashi @ MA+ GROUP; photo assistants: Cyril Marion, Sangwoo Suh; styling assistant: Keni Germosen. Photo post-production by Sarah Murray @ Pancake Post.

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