One of our favorite designers talks his journey, inspirations, creative process and more.
27-year-old LaQuan Smith has rocked the fashion world with his strong, sexy and daring designs. At 21 he had his first New York Fashion Week presentation and quickly became a favorite to many A-Listers. He’s dressed Beyoncé, Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Alicia Keys and the whole Kardashian/Jenner family, just to name a few.
LaQuan credits his grandmother as the one who taught him how to sew, which awakened his passion for fashion. Pursuing his dream since a young age paid off, and Smith continues to storm his way through the fashion industry.
Last year Forbes included him on its “30 Under 30” list, amongst other bright young entrepreneurs, breakout talents and change agents. During Fall/Winter 2016 Fashion Week presentation LaQuan collaborated with BigCommerce to be the first one to bring the “See Now, Buy Now” experience to his customers.
Despite his huge success, skyrocketing into the fashion world’s elite and regularly being called Kim Kardashian’s “go-to” designer, LaQuan Smith remains humble and emphasizes that he wants to do what he enjoys most, which is making women feel beautiful, while at the same time growing his business and brand.
Read our full exclusive interview below:
LaQuan Smith: My journey’s been very extensive, it’s been a long process trying to where I am. My grandmother originally taught me how to saw. I learned it at the age of 12 and I’ve been designing ever since then. I always had love and passion for doing things creative and working with my hands. I attended the High School of Arts & Design and eventually I really started to just create a system for myself. I wanted to create a platform for myself, something that I knew if I was gonna wake up every single day, what would I love to do. That’s honestly just making women look really beautiful.
TK: How does it feel to be successful at such young age?
LS: So, I started LaQuan Smith in 2010, I was 21, and then I officially launched the business in 2013. So what that means is that a lot of times with brands that are young and new, they launch a brand, it’s still very hard. I think designing a collection is great, but really building a brand is something that is extensive and you have to work extremely hard and we’re still building. 2013 is actually when I started to make real money and to really solidify business relationships and partnerships. So that’s how the structure began.
TK: You were 21 when you first presented at NYFW. How did that feel?
LS: Showcasing my first NYFW at the age of 21 was liberating. It was very exciting, it was always a dream of mine. It’s always one of those moments that I look back in time, because every time I’m designing a new collection or if I’m designing something new for maybe a private client and I get a little bit of a creative roadblock I always revert back to the first collection. I’m always looking at the images of the first season that I showcased. Because you have to keep in mind, why do people fall in love with LaQuan Smith in the first place. And I think it was from the 2010 “Water Goddess” collection. That was something that inspired people and you wanted to feel a part of it. 2010 was such a major year for me, I could be only excited, that’s a year that my life changed completely.
TK: What do you think about being included on Forbes’ “30 Under 30” list?
LS: Definitely, being on the Forbes’ “30 Under 30” list is such a huge accomplishment. I mean, it wasn’t on my goal list, but I think that to be an independent company, independent brand and to know that I’ve succeeded thus far and these are the things I’ve accomplished just gives me a lot of hope and inspiration to really work harder and do more. I thought that when I was 21 just designing clothing and dressing hot chicks and celebrity girls was the thing to do but to really know that I’ve tripled my sales and to know that my e-commerce is doing well – things like that really help me to build my business and to be a better business person.
TK: Can you tell us about your collaboration with BigCommerce?
LS: BigCommerce was actually one of my digital sponsors for the Fashion Week. We launched a brand new e-commerce website along with brand new collection. It was one of those things that, you know, let’s get more engaged and in touch with our consumer. All of the following that we have on social media, why not bring that same energy to the actual presentation and to the website. So, we put those two things in conjunction and it was honestly a huge success. The goal was to bring more traffic to the website, it really wasn’t about sales. And we tripled that amount. Launching the new collection with BigCommerce was such an awesome collaboration. I was really excited for them to sponsor us.
TK: You are a favorite amongst Hollywood’s elite and have dressed many A-Listers. Who’s your favorite celebrity to dress? Who’s the most daring?
LS: I really don’t have a favorite celebrity to dress. I think all women that we dress are pretty awesome and they’re all unique in their own way. I’ve dressed Rihanna three times, it’s been a continuous relationship with her and her team. And it’s about solidifying the right placement. Whether it’s Beyoncé or it’s Kim Kardashian or Lady Gaga or anyone who is popular, I think it’s just important for brand building.
TK: What can you tell us about your Fall/Winter 2016 collection?
LS: Honestly, it was about patterns and I really wanted to focus on bringing glamour to streetwear, have a little of a hard edge concept to it. I really was inspired by a lot of textures and patterns that I saw at Premiere Vision trade show. We really tried to reintroduce some of the designs from the past because we know what works best, we know our client. We like to have a sense of elevation. We know that she’s sexy, we know that she’s daring, we know that she loves to be the center of attention. It was really more catered to her needs in that way, to bring the sense of elevation for every season. Full winter, she’s in a full velvet bomber, wearing a full neoprene booty, that’s her life . I had a great time, my team is really awesome and we just continue to brainstorm, build inspiration and to build on who this LaQuan Smith woman is and where she’s going.
TK: Describe your creative process.
LS: The creative process is a little bit all over the place. It’s kind of extensive. Sometimes I do get creative blocks, I love music, I love hanging out with my friends, I love being able to do a lot of research on Pinterest or Tumblr or even Instagram, I’d do screenshots of a cool girl that I might follow. Maybe on a Saturday night I’m watching like an oldschool Netflix movie and I’m absolutely loving what Michelle Pfeiffer is wearing in Scarface, so I’ll screen grab that and do more references. It’s extensive, it’s very lengthy. I don’t try so hard to find inspiration, I just let it come to me as organically as possible. It’s just a process of building and I’m a very visual person, so we always print out images, different clippings, different fabrics, different textures, colors, moods. That’s a creative process for building a collection.
TK: Do you have any design heroes?
LS: I really admire, love and respect Azzedine Alaia. I really love, admire Alexander McQueen. I have a great appreciation for brilliance and things that are unique and different. Things that are quite timeless and that speak closely to me. I love these two designers. I’ve been studying their work for as long as I can remember. Definitely, Alexander McQueen and Azzedine Alaia.
TK: What’s next for LaQuan Smith?
LS: LaQuan Smith is definitely going to be a household name in the next 5-10 years. I’m looking to do more partnerships, more collaborations. I would love to definitely be sold in Barney’s, Bergdorf’s, and just keep growing as much as I possibly can.