BY ARIEL HERNANDEZ
From watching and contributing to his grandmother and mother’s church gear to being inspired by hip-hop artists of Southeast Queens, LaQuan Smith was born and raised in St. Albans—and so was his love for fashion.
In the same way that a child would take a toy car apart and build it together again, Smith does the same with clothes. As a young teen, Smith would take a pencil skirt or a pair of jeans and take the seams apart, thinking of creative ways to put them back together.
“It was my fascination with clothing that helped me discover I wanted to work in the fashion business,” Smith said.
Although Smith always had artistic talent, constantly getting into trouble at school for sketching characters sporting fluffy skirts while walking their dogs, it was his grandmother that taught him to physically bring those designs to life.
“I remember going to Walmart and her picking out corny patterns,” Smith said. “I would tell her I didn’t want to make anything with that pattern, given that I had an eye for edgy and sexy looks, but she would say that if I wanted to learn to sew, I had to learn with what I had, even if it were [the most] basic of patterns. I am very appreciative of her training.”
Even with Smith’s eye for fashion, he went through obstacles in his career that didn’t stop him, but inspired him.
“I was rejected from F.I.T. (The Fashion Institute of Technology) and Parsons School of Design and after being depressed about it, I got inspired,” Smith said. “I told myself ‘I’m going to be an entrepreneur’ and I don’t regret anything. I don’t see my job as glamorous at all. It’s hard, but I love the creative process. It’s the only thing I’m good at and, for that reason, I wake up every day with humility and thankfulness.”
In his 28 years of life, Smith has worked with everybody who is anybody. From A-listers like Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Kim Kardashian to up-and-coming artists like Cardi B, he designs for them all.
“If you know fashion and love fashion, you know who LaQuan Smith is and what it’s about,” Smith said.
Smith’s first experience designing for a well-known artist occurred shortly after his internship with BlackBook Magazine at age 19. He was sporting one of his self-made 3D leggings as a means of self-promotion. Shortly afterward, Smith saw Lady Gaga wearing the same leggings.
“I was like ‘how does Gaga have the leggings’,” Smith said. “It became a phenomenon.”
It was that same year— 2009—that Rihanna was filming a video for her song ‘Rude Boy,’ and Smith was contacted by one of the singer’s representatives, requesting that he design her cat suit for the video, which he did.
In 2010, Smith launched LaQuan Smith LLC. Although that year was Smith’s best as he traveled the world and grew a strong support system, 2011 was rough for the designer.
“The hype was gone,” Smith said. “It got harder. I didn’t understand the full capacity of what the fashion industry meant. It got harder and more discouraging. But thanks to my family and my friends, who would chip in $100 for fabric and invested in me, I was able to put on my first showing for New York Fashion Week.”
Last month—six years since his first participation in the iconic New York fashion showcase—Smith took part in New York City Fashion Week, where he collaborated with Samsung to show off the 2017 fall/winter LaQuan Smith LLC collection and bring fashion technologically to life.
Samsung, which sponsored the show, created a 360 virtual reality experience, where audience members would put on futuristic goggles and watch as models dress in their condos, get into their forms of transportation and make their way to the fashion show stage.
“It was genius,” Smith said. “Really being able to bring something new to the table was amazing, but it takes a team of people to think outside of the box and look at the trajectory of the brand.”
Aside from partaking in Fashion Week and having A-listers wear his line, Smith holds trunk shows all over the country and puts on fashion shows internationally in such places as Dubai, South Africa and Paris. According to Smith, it’s his fashion shows that help to market his brand.
In addition to fashion shows, social media has played a huge role in Smith’s brand, given that when people wear his line, they tag him in the photos and draw new attention to his brand.
Although LaQuan Smith LLC ships worldwide, the women’s line is manufactured in a Long Island City showroom. Often engulfed in his clothing line, Smith said that every day is different.
“I never have a routine, never a set schedule,” Smith said. “It’s crazy because you have to kind of juggle it all at once, but I am so thankful for my team that continues to hold me down.
We’re equally passionate about what we do.”
Smith designs everything from dresses, skirts and pants to tops, jackets, coats and jumpsuits, all of which are inspired by his eye for sexy, elegant, edgy and vintage styles.
“It’s all of that in one,” Smith said. “That is what it takes to put a piece together, a perspective reference point. I could give you something with an urban hip-hop flare, with an elegant and side reference from the 80s to 90s rock era. I can’t help what I love. I’m just very visual.”
This year, Smith launched his shoe collection, the LQS Puffer Boot, which is a thigh high shoe with leather shoe laces; the LQS PVC Bootie, which is a stretch patent point toe; and LQS PVC Thigh High, which is also stretch patent but is over 33 inches high.
Since Smith has become popular in the designer industry, with many of his designs being front and center on red carpets, he said he’s been contacted by young aspiring fashion designers for internships.
“It is extremely hard to be a designer in the industry right now, let alone to be a designer of color, which is even harder,” Smith said. “But I’m proud of myself and the fact that I can be a source of inspiration for other people. Inspiring others is bigger than me. It inspires me to keep being great because what I do is affecting others. It’s a great motivation.”
Reach Ariel Hernandez at (718) 357-7400 x144 or firstname.lastname@example.org