She’s New York, she’s from Queens, and she’s American designer LaQuan Smith. Its creations are specifically for certain types of women. Women from Jennifer Lopez, to Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, and Rihanna are known to drink from her aesthetic design fountain. Smith gave her grandmother an inauguration award for fashion, who taught her the intricacies of sewing and pattern making. And today, the design styles are unapologetic, glamorous, sexy, classy and luxury.
In her chats with Smith, she opened up about design school, her ah-ha moment when she found out she wanted to be a designer, what the process was like for creating new collections, and what the world could expect from her in 2021 Photographed by fashion and beauty photographers New York City Andrew Day, who have worked with some of the most prominent fashion talent in the industry.
It was the women in her family who encouraged the thirty-two year old to become a designer. “After seeing the beautiful women in my family dress up for various events, it sparked my enthusiasm to want to make beautiful clothes,” he noted. Smith was not educated in fashion school but was self-taught, filled with a passion for his craft, and had a cruel eye for what his clients wanted to wear. “I used to think that going to design school would improve my skills, but now I don’t think I need to go to fashion design school. Studying myself and carving my own path forced me to execute myself and find out for myself, “ said Smith.
What’s unique about Smith’s journey is that at the age of twenty-one, she made her debut at New York Fashion Week when most of the design students of the same type and age were still in school. “I was very fortunate to have my first debut fashion show during NYFW in 2010, with the help of my then mentor, Andre Leon Talley. I actually put on my runway show at Peninsula and Serena Williams closed the show in 2012. With the help of my network, I was able to put on a strong performance for my first show. “
Its creative process timeline is average for most design houses. “That it took a full 6 months to build a collection – starting with my inspirational process, streaming, prototyping and sampling, through to installation and casting, and finally our runway or lookbook show. ” And, Smith chose to have his office in Queens rather than bustling Manhattan. “Long Island City, Queens is important for me to be in because it is close to my birthplace in Queens, but it’s a haven at odds with the busy nature of Manhattan. During fashion week, I can sometimes walk out of the office in total isolation. “
What made Smith’s style specific was his attention to detail in women’s shapes and forms, and he designed them. “The focus on the female form comes from my love of sensuality and femininity, ” he mused. This is what attracts the strongest woman in entertainment to her atelier in Queens. “I want to bring women’s bodies back into fashion, and celebrate women’s curves, I feel these attributes make women the strongest,” he continued.
He admitted that seeing strong women like Lady Gaga and Rihanna wearing their creations was a beautiful moment in his life. “These women are not only strong women but also very individualistic. They have different vibes and styles, but these two can still rock LaQuan Smith when they want to look glamorous, ” said Smith.
And while LaQuan is successful and has some of the most famous women in the world wearing his designs, he doesn’t see himself arriving. “I thought coming up with fashion is out of date nowadays, it concludes that once you arrive you can leave. I wanted to create a luxury brand that all women who had a classic luxury code could aspire to and buy. I want my clothes to stay in a woman’s wardrobe forever, not just the season. “
2020 is coming, a year that no one can anticipate will bring many reset, challenges and heartache to every pocket of the world. Fashion hasn’t been touched for the past eleven months either. But designers like Smith have found a way to do it. “The industry has taken a few hits, but the LaQuan Smith brand has pushed and opened 6 new wholesale accounts, continued my partnership with Revolve, broadened my horizons in sportswear, and made fashion films with Hype Williams. ” she shares.
Challenges he faced: “Being a pre-COVID and post fashion designer has presented many challenges. Staying true to my brand, aesthetic, and relying on my instincts is how I encourage it. And this is the mindset of most designers in a rapidly changing industry; which has been seen as a struggle in many aspects in recent years even before Covid; and it hinges on things that have slowed the world from travel and gatherings to fashion shows. “This year I’ve taken to never taking it for granted, ” continued Smith, “to have a solid team with different skills to execute during a lockdown. I haven’t slowed down yet, but without the creative pressure before Covid, I definitely feel freer to be creative. “
Fashion hasn’t earned the best reputation for being sustainable but Smith realizes this is for the brand. “We are making steps to become more environmentally conscious. In my recent collaboration with Levi’s I used a vintage trucker jacket to create a new dress, this is a concept I’m thinking of continuing. “
While 2020 has both challenges and strengths for Smith to develop, 2021 is the year we will see more great designs for designers. She will unveil her AW21 collection during New York fashion week in February.
Find out more about LaQuan Smith- here.