Whether it’s Beyoncé’s crystal-studded blazer (with matching balaclava) from her OTRII tour, or Kim Kardashian in an oil slick, second skin PVC dress, even If you’re not familiar with LaQuan Smith by name, you’ll absolutely recognise his designs. “I believe in mixing glamour with streetwear, I want everything I make to be a juxtaposition of the two,” the designer explains.
Hailing from New York – Queens specifically – the designer is self-taught and since his design debut has been quietly putting out sex-infused collections that are an ode to his hometown. That’s the vibe I absorbed when I grew up, that’s what I get from living here and what I’m attracted to,” Smith says. “I infuse everything with that New York attitude.”
After capturing the attention of such big names, Smith is now hoping to reach an even bigger platform; collaborating with ASOS on a new collection. While the collection will mean the LaQuan Smith name will be out there to a whole new audience, the reason he wanted to do it was to bring his aesthetic to people who might not be able to afford his mainline collections.
“This collection was for all the people out there who follow me and want to wear my designs but can’t afford them” – LaQuan Smith
“This collection was for all the people out there who follow me and want to wear my designs but can’t afford them,” he explains. “Lots of the pieces are a more affordable version of pieces I did for the SS18 show, to give you the same aesthetic but without having to break the bank.”
The collection itself includes all the LaQuan signatures – mesh bodysuits, PVC dresses, and crystal adornments on every inch of fabric available – but as much as he wants to dress up his woman for the club, there’s also daywear too. While obviously sex appeal is a big part of the new collection, the designer is aware that it isn’t for everyone. “I know the collection might not be for every woman, and I’m fine with that,” he says. “It’s about women who understand my aesthetic and understand the way I cut dresses and why I choose certain fabrics.”
Here, we talk to Smith about the collaboration, how New York inspires him, and how he stays humble.
Growing up in New York obviously has a big influence on your label. Why is that important to you?
LaQuan Smith: It’s my DNA and makes up who I am as a person. If I wasn’t from New York, would I be designing the things that I am designing? Probably not. It’s an influence, everything starts there. It’s not that everything is about New York City, it’s being able to tell my story and my perspective, and how I think the world should look in my eyes.
How would you describe the LaQuan Smith woman?
LaQuan Smith: She’s very sassy, she’s unapologetic, she’s very confident, she knows exactly who she is, she loves her body, she grabs attention from guys and girls – she’s that bitch.
It’s a mindset of making an effort, you have to make the effort to be in a good mood, you have to be in a good mood to wear these clothes. We’re in a generation right now where everyone’s wearing sweats and yoga pants and leggings and shit. I commend a woman who puts on a heel, a boot, a beaded something and gives me life.
You’ve had some big names wearing your designs, how do you stay grounded?
LaQuan Smith: I would definitely say it’s because of my team, my family, my friends, and people who genuinely believe in what I’m doing. I feel that this is bigger than me. So many people want to be part of this journey, or are living vicariously through social media – this is just a story to be told and I want to keep giving them what they want. So many people want to be part of this journey, or are living vicariously through social media – this is just a story to be told and I want to keep giving them what they want.
“Right now, everyone’s wearing sweats and yoga pants and leggings and shit. I commend a woman who puts on a heel, a boot, a beaded something and gives me life” – LaQuan Smith
What can you tell us about your new collaboration with ASOS?
LaQuan Smith: This is a collection that I think is definitely celebrated by guys and girls that are diverse and sexually fluid. This collection is a party collection, a sexy collection, a collection for the youth, for the sexy, for the fun, for the daring. I think it’s a perfect marriage between us because it pushes ASOS in a progressive direction they haven’t gone to before, and helps maximise my clientele and puts my name out there.
There’s a level I want to take this brand to, but I want to do it without making it super cheesy or corny. The decision to do this with ASOS was very specific and the collection is still really identifiable to who I am. The best part was having creative freedom to do whatever I wanted. There’s everything from shoes to glasses, bags to outerwear – even a damn du rag. If I’m going to do a du rag though, it’s got to be all beaded with crystals.
How did you go about making sure the collection was still identifiable to you?
LaQuan Smith: If anything, it’s way too much LaQuan – I wanted to do too damn much. There’s a lot of mesh bodysuits that have the logo across it. I wanted to do furs, crystals and transparency, but it was all about keeping it fun.
You really have to think about every spectrum of the wearer’s life though. If they’re going to work, or school, what they do when they’re not there. The idea was to create a collection for the everyday person, but spicing it up and making it a little bit funkier.
How do you think this collaboration will help get your label out there?
LaQuan Smith: This is definitely going to bring awareness to the brand, I think that people are going to be like, ‘oh, LaQuan Smith I’ve heard of that before’, and that’s the goal for me.
The range of categories I’ve been able to build with this collection will definitely rub off on my own collections too. It all helps me think more deeply about nightlife, because eventually I want to turn this into a lifestyle brand – more than just eveningwear and glitz and glam. I’m looking forward to that and I’m currently working on the AW19 collection for February – so there are lots of exciting things I’m working on. I’m really looking forward to seeing what comes next.
What kind of advice would you give to people looking to start their own fashion label?
LaQuan Smith: I wish someone would’ve been like, ‘Get a business plan, save money’. People don’t tell you that it takes a lot of money to run a business and to build a fashion brand. My advice is to have a strategy, have a business plan, stay inspired, do a lot of networking, and get your name out there as much as you can. Don’t be afraid to work for people, don’t be afraid to learn. Everybody wants to just make it to the top without putting in the work, but my best advice is just humble yourself and learn as much as you can so that you can actually do the great things that you wanna do.