Pink Gumbeaux: I remember when we first met. I think we were both freshmen in undergrad taking an English course by a professor I still can’t stand and you sat right behind me. At some point in the semester, you told me you would be traveling to Canada for a vacation. When you returned, you were like “I’m moving to Canada!” Naturally, for someone our age…I was like “yeah right” but guess what? You not only moved to Canada but you’ve been around the world since then. What gave you the courage? What places have you lived? What has each country taught you?
Roderick Smith: I have always loved your sense of humour Miss Theodore. The class we took together was actually Cultural Geography taught by Dr. Lackey, whom just loved to say your last name.
Before we go on I just want to say thank you for giving me this opportunity, you have me feeling like the Queen when she comes home to Canada for a visit; yes we have a Queen! From a very young age growing up in rural Mississippi I longed to travel abroad. It was actually my dream to live in London after watching an episode of “Ghostwriter” where Jamal visits London. I said to myself if a black guy from Brooklyn, New York can go to London surely I can too!
My courage was built up by the friends and family around me who were all but fearful of traveling on a plane, across an ocean, and basically being out of their comfort zones. Any fear I may have had they took it off my shoulders; if you’re afraid you severely hinder yourself and you can’t really enjoy life. I consider being able to hold a passport and to travel a great privilege, one that our predecessors didn’t have yet fought for, sometimes with their lives, for our generation to have. When I travel it’s not just for my benefit it’s to honour them as well.
I have been fortunate enough to have visited Toronto (Canada), Montreal (Canada), Ottawa (Canada), Calgary (Canada), Regina (Canada), Winnipeg(Canada), London(England), Manchester (England), Glasgow (Scotland), Nadi (Fiji), and Auckland (New Zealand). Canada, England, Scotland, and New Zealand showed me cultural diversity at its very best. New Zealand and Fiji, in my personal opinion, have the right attitude towards living life. Kiwi’s (New Zealanders) are the most laid back and helpful people I have ever met! Even the way they talk is laid back and I can’t get enough of their slang; Chur Bro, LOL! Fijians are some of the most beautiful and warmest people in the South Pacific islands, always with a smile on their faces taking everything that life thrashes out at them in with incredible stride.
How I first started globe-trotting was by keeping my personal responsibilities and expenses as minimal as possible, working my ass off and saving towards my desired trip. First I began booking flight/hotel travel packages from the well-known online booking agents and once I began traveling I got better at finding cheaper flights and lodgings. Researching the traveling habits of backpackers really helped; these people are able to, with little or no money, hop all over the world! Traveling has allowed me to learn the basic concepts of life. When you remove the labels that society has attached to us and toss aside our cultural and religious differences to just see the human being what we all want out of life is the same; food in our belly’s, shelter over our heads, and prosperity.
Pink Gumbeaux: Ok, tell me about your line? What made you want to develop a T-shirt line?
Roderick Smith: Now for the real reason I am here today, the clothing brand. The brand is called La Compagnie Artisans de la Paix translated into English as The Company of Peacemakers. You can tell we are a Canadian based brand for our embracing of bilingualism, thank you Pierre Trudeau.
The idea of La Compagnie Artisans de la Paix was born one night while sitting in my room when I was living in New Zealand. I was sitting there with my thoughts asking myself a series of questions about what I wanted to do in life once my post-secondary education was complete that was related to the arts, in particular the Toronto arts scene. I sketched my first t-shirt design and from that moment on, did my research, and taught myself graphic design. Four years later, here we are!
The brand is inspired by Toronto, the phenomenal arts scene in the city, and the pride for city and country. The people of Toronto love their city and love to showcase it through various mediums of art. The City of Toronto is comprised of the former cities of Toronto, Scarborough, Etobicoke, North York, York, and borough of York that once made up the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto.
Our brand and designs capture the pride of the city while paying homage to the communities brought together to form it. The first collection our gate is the ‘Hometown Glory’ collection that effectively captures pride while paying homage.
La Compagnie [Artisans de la Paix] also has a humanitarian function influenced by events that have played out over the course of my life and also by former Governor General of Canada Michaëlle Jean, whom is my heroine, by her own humanitarian and solidarity efforts. I wanted the brand to be more than a business but also be personable and help with important causes helping spread peace.
La Compagnie Artisans de la Paix is a homatage-humanitarian brand.
Pink Gumbeaux: Where can readers purchase your T-shirts? How can everyone stay in touch with you? Side note: You really should, his Facebook posts are hilarious and we share an appreciation for Drake and twerking.
Roderick Smith: Your readers can find La Compagnie online socially through our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts. Our brand’s e-commerce site can be found here!
The best way readers can get in touch with me is by messaging me through La Compagnie Artisan de la Paix’s official Facebook page, I check it regularly.
Pink Gumbeaux: What’s next?!
Roderick Smith: Apart from continuing to build and promote the brand my future endeavors include launching, finally, my travel blog that so many have been begging me to do. It will detail all my journeys around the world and offer traveling tips. Very excited about it actually, I mean after-all I would not be who I am today without travel in my life.
Miss Theodore, it has been an absolute pleasure to be with you today and I want to thank you for taking interest in me and La Compagnie Artisans de la Paix.