Recipient of the Rebecca Mellman Henry Memorial Scholarship
Image of a male sitting in a window with a blue sweater and grey pants
May 2021

Finding His Creative Voice

Scholarship support inspires Teddy Smarz to push through challenging moments in the studio.

A supportive family encouraged Teddy Smarz 22 AP to turn his passion for art, design and fashion into a career. “Growing up in New Jersey, my mom would bring me to art museums, gardens and fashionable stores—activities we still enjoy to this day. I started my own clothing line with my best friend in high school, and it was then that I became fully invested in being creative,” he says.

He now finds himself at home in the RISD community. “It is the perfect place for me to find my own voice, to formulate my own practice and to stick out,” he says. “RISD’s emphasis on the conceptual has pushed me to create work about which I am truly passionate. The combination of artistic inspiration and concept—while not becoming commercialized—is a creative dream.”

Smarz is interested in menswear, both classic and contemporary as well as street and sophisticated. He also draws inspiration from religious garments and Christianity to create clothing and looks that are genderless. Aspiring to become a key player on an influential fashion design team, his ultimate goal is to start his own label that conveys his vision.

"Receiving a scholarship is a hype moment that reminds me to keep pushing and grinding in the studio."
Teddy Smarz 22 AP

He is grateful to receive the Rebecca Mellman Henry Memorial Scholarship, which was established by Dr. Sidney Mellman P 80 and Jan Mellman P 80 in memory of their daughter, who graduated from RISD with a master’s degree in Art Education. “It is a tremendous honor and privilege and also very important to my career as a design student. What strikes me is not so much its monetary value, but people’s trust and belief in me,” he says. “It makes me dig deeper when I feel like quitting.”

Although only a junior, he’s begun to build his professional network in earnest. “I have been using the RISD Network this year, and it has been very helpful for reaching out to RISD alumni within the fashion industry and making connections for internships and potential job opportunities. I like it better than LinkedIn because it feels less formal. All of us on the platform share our common experience of RISD.

“The most exciting thing about being creative is the moment when your dreams begin to become realities. Everyone at RISD is extremely supportive and they have taught me that I can best chase my dreams by staying focused and true to myself.”

Image of three figures in pink robes and black masks in front of large format paintings in a museum setting
"The Wise Mythic," 2020 by Teddy Smarz

The Wise Mythic, 2020 by Teddy Smarz was inspired by the rich color and drape showcased in Christian Renaissance paintings and he drew from Greek mythology, theater, medieval manuscripts, theology, philosophy and his faith to create these garments.