UNIVERSE + SOUL COUTURE AND VOID SPACE PRODUCTIONS
By:Rachel Pillow | Photos by: Karl Lamb & Walt Wooden
While most 19 and 22 year olds are concerned about waking up in time for class or what filter to use on Instagram, brother and sister duo, Curtis and Kaiya Smith, are concerned with owning and operating their own businesses in Suwanee.
Kaiya, age 19, is the owner of Suwanee’s newest fashion boutique: Universe + Soul Couture; and Curtis, 22, owns Void Space Productions. While the businesses technically operate independently from one another, they tend to fuel each other and consider themselves business partners. In fact, the stores, located across from Suwanee Town Center Park on Buford Hwy, are physically connected as well. Universe + Soul Couture’s entrance faces Buford Hwy and Void Space Productions’ entrance is behind the shopping center, next to Marco’s Pizza. However, you can walk through each store to get to the other. “The stores look completely different, but they are ours together, not just a separate thing – we support each other 50/50,” said Kaiya.
Universe + Soul Couture is an affordable, yet high quality clothing boutique with rare and unique finds that Kaiya herself has picked out. Void Space Productions functions as both an art studio and walk-in shop: a place for Curtis and other artists to showcase their art, photography, handmade jewelry, clothing and home décor.
“We’re the complete package,” explained Kaiya. “Curtis is a photographer who takes amazing photos and puts the pictures on canvas; while I’m a stylist and makeup artist…we can style the shoot and the model,” she continued. Each of them are talented and offer services beyond what the eye can see just by walking into their stores. Kaiya, who is always looking to advance her techniques and skillsets, recently went to Los Angeles for several weeks to attend a makeup class and has already completed classes in Georgia and New York. While her boutique specializes in clothing and accessories, Kaiya also does makeup consultations and tutorials and styling upon requests.
“I guess I would call my style urban if I had to define it,” explained Kaiya, “But I have a mix of everything, I make sure that we have something for everyone and something to appeal to all age groups” she continued. If the clothes aren’t her own designs, then Kaiya likes to make sure that all of the clothes in there at least have her personal touch. Even when she buys a product wholesale, she will typically enhance it in some way, by adding embroidery, rhinestones, patches or reconstructing the piece. And in fact, Curtis even helps sew and reconstruct the clothing for her, too. One piece they are proud of is a bomber jacket, which features some of Curtis’ photography and artwork on patches they sewed into the jacket. “That was a great collaboration project,” said Kaiya.
Void Space Productions also specializes in featuring items you won’t find anywhere else. “A lot of people come in and say there’s nothing else like this around here. I have people that come in and just enjoy the vibe and want to chill out here. I take that as a compliment,” said Curtis.
As an artist himself, his goal is to really support other independent artists and for eventually everything in the store to be handmade. Currently the walls are decorated with Curtis’ own beautiful photography that is printed on canvas, but he would love to feature other artists and invite them to sell their work in his shop. “If any local artists are interested in selling their work here, they can reach out to me,” he said. “Without connection, without collaboration, we are essentially nothing. Really, the goal is to inspire people through my work and other artists’ work,” he explained.
Curtis and Kaiya got their start by traveling to different festivals in the area and selling their work. Kaiya set up a mobile clothing boutique and Curtis sold his photography pieces. “We did about 16 festivals in a 6 month time span – it was a lot of fun, but exhausting,” said Curtis. Due to the success and overwhelmingly positive response from the community, Curtis and Kaiya opened the doors to their stores in August 2016, with the help and support of their mom, Lena Smith.
Both Curtis and Kaiya speak very highly of their mother, who has supported them every step of the way. “I’m very grateful for her, without my mom this all would have just been an idea – but she helped us actually execute,” said Kaiya. “She’s a great mom and an inspiration for how I want to be for my children… seeing your child’s dreams come to life and surpassing even your own,” said Curtis.
Both Curtis and Kaiya have plans to grow and expand over the next 5-10 years. “Being such a young business owner is extremely rewarding, but it is hard work. My advice is if you have help then definitely take it because there’s nothing wrong with accepting help and support. Be consistent, but always try to create fresh and new ideas,” said Kaiya. “We want people to know that there’s a universe inside of you and anything is possible,” said Curtis. ■
UNIVERSE + SOUL COUTURE & VOID SPACE PRODUCTIONS
425 Highway 23 NW, Suwanee, GA