Vancouver designer Heidi Smith overcomes addiction to take fashions to Academy Awards

    1 of 3 2 of 3

      This Sunday’s (February 28) 88th annual Academy Awards includes four nominees from B.C. for their work in The Revenant, but off-stage, another homegrown creative will also be making a mark on Hollywood.

      Heidi Smith, founder and owner of local apparel line Addictive Designs, is one of a handful of designers who have been chosen to supply swag for the 2016 Celebrity Oscar Gift Lounge. The name of her company is more than a mere metaphor: Smith is a recovering addict, who has now been clean for five years following an over-two-decades battle with substance abuse.

      After entering long-term recovery, Smith rediscovered her passion for graphic design and, drawing from her experience in fashion, launched her Addictive brand of screen-printed tanks in 2015. Each garment is designed and printed in the Lower Mainland and inscribed with a positive, empowering phrase. Believe: best thing I ever did is emblazoned across one tank, while others feature notes like Brave: with wings she flies, Courage: grace under pressure, and Survivor: I live strong in my truth.

      The messages emblazoned on Addicted Designs apparel were originally inspired from Smith's experiences in recovery.

      “Originally, my messages were based on my experiences in the start of my recovery and how it resonated for me,” Smith tells the Straight by phone, shortly after landing in Los Angeles in preparation for this weekend’s award show. “And, as I expanded, I came to realize that a lot of people actually related to the messages.”

      The designer’s tanks use soft, flowing cuts and quality fabrics to flatter various body types—an especially important factor for people in recovery, who may be dealing with disordered eating issues or are body conscious.

      Combined with her inspiring scripts, the shirts have managed to reach an expansive network of women, including fitness enthusiasts looking for a little motivation in the gym and anyone who may be experiencing or has experienced hardship, whether due to sickness, the loss of a friend or family member, or otherwise.

      “Not only women in recovery, but I have women who show up at my door saying, ‘I so relate to this message,’ ” Smith says. “They tend to share a little about themselves. And that’s not just with me—I’ve heard that across the board. People are starting to recognize the shirts, so what it’s done is that it’s created connections.”

      Smith's most popular print has been redesigned in an Oscar-appropriate scheme of black and gold for the Academy Awards swag bags.

      Those connections are what landed Smith’s designs into this year’s coveted Oscars swag bags, when a chance meeting put her in touch with one of the bags’ curators. The designer was putting together a number of gift bags for mothers and pregnant women in need as part of Addictive’s GiveBack mission this past Christmas and was referred by Corina Nussle of Corsus Body Care, a local maker who had her products highlighted at the 2015 Oscars.  

      Smith will be presenting Hollywood’s top actors and actresses with limited-edition, black-and-gold iterations of her most popular print—Find your tribe, love them hard—at the Academy Awards’ media gift lounge on Sunday. 

      “A big part of my recovery has been latching onto a really great group of women, which has been super beneficial to me staying sober,” she says of the meaning behind the shirt. “And not even women who are in recovery, just in general.”

      Addictive Designs’ apparel is currently available online, though it’s safe to say that Smith has garnered enough widespread recognition to begin shipping to select retailers very, very soon. “That’s kind of where I wanted to go with this,” she says. “I wanted those of us in recovery to be no different than the rest of society.”