Queens Bred, Fashion Designer LaQuan Smith Opens Up About His Journey And 2020

He’s a New Yorker, he’s from Queens, and he’s American fashion designer LaQuan Smith. His creations are specific for a certain type of woman. Women from Jennifer Lopez, to Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, and Rihanna are known to drink from his aesthetic design fountain. Smith gives inauguration credit into fashion to his grandmother, who taught him the intricacies of sewing and pattern making. And today, his design style as unapologetic, glamorous, sexy, classy and luxurious.

In a chat with Smith, he opens up about design school, his ah-ha moment when he knew he wanted to be a designer, what his process is like in creating new collections, and what the world can expect to see from him in 2021. Photographed by New York City fashion and beauty photographer Andrew Day, who has worked with some of the industry’s most leading fashion talent.

It was the women in his family that propelled the thirty-two-year-old to become a designer. “After seeing the beautiful women in my family dress up for occasions, it lit the spark in me to want to create beautiful clothes,” he notes. Smith is not fashion school educated but rather self-taught, filled with passion for his craft, and has a ruthless eye for what his clientele wants to wear. “I used to think that going to design school would have elevated my craft, but now I don’t think it’s necessary for me to go to fashion design school. Learning on my own and carving my own path forced me to execute on my own and figure it out myself,” says Smith.

What’s unique about Smith’s journey is that by the age of twenty-one, he premiered at New York Fashion Week when most design students of his same ilk and age are still in school. “I was so fortunate to have my first debut fashion show during NYFW in 2010, with the help of my mentor at the time Andre Leon Talley. I actually held my runway show at the Peninsula and Serena Williams closed the show in 2012. With help from my network I was able to showcase strong for my first outings.”

His creative process timeline is average for most design houses. “It takes me a full 6 months to create a collection- starts with my inspiration process, goes to my draping, prototyping and sample making, down to fitting and casting, and finally our runway shows or a lookbook.” And, Smith chooses to have his offices in Queens as opposed to the hustle and bustle of Manhattan. “Long Island City, Queens is important for me to be in as its close to my birth spot in Queens but it’s a haven opposed to the bustling nature of Manhattan. During fashion week I’m able to walk out the office in complete isolation sometimes.”

What makes Smith’s style specific is his attention to detail to the female shape and form, and he designs around that. “The focus on a woman’s form comes from my love of sensuality and femininity,” he muses. This is what draws the strongest women in entertainment to his atelier in Queens.  “I want to bring the woman’s body back into fashion, and celebrate a woman’s curve, I feel as these attributes make women their most powerful,” he continues.

He admits that seeing powerful women like Lady Gaga and Rihanna wearing his creations are great moments in his life. “These are ladies are not only powerful women but also very individualistic. They have their own distinct vibe and style but both can still rock LaQuan Smith when they want to be glamorous,” says Smith.

And while LaQuan is successful and has some of the world’s most notable women wearing his designs, he doesn’t see himself as having arrived. “I think arriving in fashion is outdated now, it infers that once you’ve arrived you can leave. I want to create a luxury brand that all women can aspire and buy into that hold classic luxurious codes. I want my clothes to live in a woman’s closet forever, not just a season.”

2020 came, a year that no one could have anticipated would bring as much reset, challenges, and heartache to every pocket of the globe. Fashion hasn’t been untouched these past eleven months either. But designers like Smith have found ways to push through. “The industry has taken several hits, but the LaQuan Smith brand has pushed through and opened 6 new wholesale accounts, furthering my partnership with Revolve, broadening my horizons in sportswear, and creating a fashion film with Hype Williams,” he shares.

The challenges he has faced: “Being a fashion designer pre-COVID and post, have presented many challenges. Staying true to my brand, aesthetics, and relying on my gut is how I’ve pushed through. And this is the mindset of most designers in an industry that’s swiftly changing; that has been seen as struggling in many aspects the last few years even pre-Covid; and that relies on the very things that have slowed down the world from travel and meeting for fashion shows. “This year I’ve taken away to never take anything for granted,” continues Smith, “to have a solid team with differing skills to execute during a lockdown. I haven’t necessarily slowed down, but without the creative pressures pre-Covid, I’ve definitely felt freer to create.”

Fashion hasn’t gotten the best rep for being sustainable but Smith is conscious of this for his brand. “We are currently making strides to become more eco conscious. In my recent collab with Levi’s I used vintage trucker jackets to create a new dress, it’s a concept I’m thinking of continuing.”

While 2020 has had its challenges and strengths for Smith to grow, 2021 is a year where we’ll see more great designs for the designer. He’ll be unveiling his AW21 collection during New York’s fashion week in February.

Find out more about LaQuan Smith- here.

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