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LaQuan Smith

LaQuan Smith’s Unapologetically Glamorous Ethos for Fashion

The New York-based designer LaQuan Smith discusses his creative journey into sexy womenswear, and how his recent foray into menswear centers successful and inspirational men.

When LaQuan Smith was 13 years old, his grandmother Hattie taught him how to sew. For the Queens, New York, native, it was a transformative moment. Fast-forward to today, and the American fashion designer is celebrating ten years in business with his eponymous label. Synonymous with sexy, Smith’s looks are adored for their shape-shifting abilities to turn garments into extensions of self, occasions into experiences. Bodysuits that hug the frame feature sheer panels and embellishments; teeny bustiers and collared shirts with plunging necklines are made of unexpected materials, like PVC and all-over sequins; and bodycon dresses that accentuate God-given shapes feature mini hemlines and major sex appeal.  

LaQuan Smith’s Dedication to Sexy

LaQuan Smith Courtesy of LaQuan Smith.
LaQuan Smith LaQuan Smith SS24, photo by Don Ashby for FirstVIEW, courtesy of LaQuan Smith.

The past year has been monumental for Smith’s idea of what sexy is, and how it can evolve, as he debuted a selection of new categories, including menswear and suiting. For the first time, sultry looks were replaced by a warm palette of streamlined garments, including leather jackets and items made of stretch suede. While remaining sensual, the new aesthetic signaled a new wave of luxury at LaQuan Smith, offering women—and for the first time, men—a wardrobe beyond the best for a night out.   

Whitewall spoke with the designer about his idea of fashion as a form of celebration, becoming a socially sustainable business, and how his clothing aims to complement the confidence found within. 

WHITEWALL: The LaQuan Smith aesthetic has always been influenced by New York. What specifically? 

LAQUAN SMITH: Nightlife, glamour, and this overall idea of being unapologetically sexy. When I started my business, my dream was to dress women of all different shapes, sizes, and ages, and allow them to experience the forward sexiness that does encompass the world of LaQuan Smith. I felt there was a space for me to create these very forward, sexy, provocative, luxurious articles of clothing. When my business was growing, I was growing in a space that was all about streetwear. Everything was sportswear-infused. It was a quiet time to reinforce what American sexy looks like, and continuing to push that needle and boundary. 

To wear LaQuan Smith is an experience. It’s been fascinating to see the way women have gravitated to my clothing organically. I’ve had testimonies of women saying, “Oh my God, my husband couldn’t take his hands off of me all night in LaQuan Smith!” or “I was the center of attention.” It’s always been a form of celebration from the very beginning. I sort of carried on that. 

It wasn’t very hard for me to figure out what my brand DNA was. I knew it from the get-go, and I just continued to grow and nurture that. And by dressing different women from many different walks of life, it allowed me to understand who my target audience was and lean into her to understand exactly who she is and what her lifestyle. From an American luxury perspective I’m trying to ask, “What does sexy look like?” And “What is the future of sexy look like?” 

“It’s always been a form of celebration,”

–LaQuan Smith

WW: Who inspired you to think about sexiness?

LS: At times I feel I was born a bit too late because I love the heyday of designers like Gianni Versace and Thierry Mugler. And those are the designers that inspired me and just sort of, you know, their DNA and their way of showing what I was also so influenced by music, and the fusion of music and fashion; awards shows and watching J.Lo and Beyoncé hitting the red carpet in sexy, iconic, provocative clothing. I wanted to be a part of that legacy and show that from my perspective—from being from Queens, New York. 

Unapologetic and Glamorous

WW: What does unapologetically sexy look like to you today? Is it a look, or is it more of an embodiment of an attitude, like confidence?

LS: It’s about being unapologetic. It’s a period of being glamorous. To me, glamour is timeless. You know, it’s a sexy lifestyle. It’s an understanding of quality and luxury, and really being in tune with yourself and your body. Specifically, I think my woman also has an affinity for New York City and the authentic culture that it holds. That really screams what sexy looks like and what it feels like. 

WW: Recently, you introduced some new categories—less cutout catsuits and more actual suits. What did you want this to signal?

LS: That was an elevation of LaQuan Smith. I was excited about some of the new categories that I introduced—blazers, suiting, outerwear. I was heavily inspired by the eighties show Dynasty and Alexis Colby. That fictional character was just fab, from sunup to sundown, whether she was in a silk pajama set, a bustier, or in a crisp white wool suit on her way to sign some papers for court. Everything was just so obnoxiously glamorous. I felt like this was the time to bring that back. I want to bring back occasions and memories where women can just get dressed up again. 

And I did show it at the Rainbow Room, which is so iconic for its own glamour and nightlife. The upper-echelon elites of New York used to come together there, maybe in the forties or something, and would dance the night away. This is the time to celebrate New York. This is the time to celebrate American luxury designers, specifically Black designers, and American fashion. 

What was great, too, is that women from so many different walks of life and ages can relate to something that walked down that runway—like a beautiful overcoat, a well-tailored suit, a blouse, or a bodysuit with a thick coat. There was something for everyone. 

Becoming Socially Sustainable

LaQuan Smith LaQuan Smith SS24, photo by Don Ashby for FirstVIEW, courtesy of LaQuan Smith.
LaQuan Smith LaQuan Smith SS24, photo by Don Ashby for FirstVIEW, courtesy of LaQuan Smith.

WW: How are you thinking about sustainability beyond recycling, reusing, and reducing waste?

LS: LaQuan Smith itself is a socially sustainable business. All of my pieces are made and manufactured in New York City, in the confines of the Garment District. It used to be a thing, and now it’s sort of dying, so that’s my contribution and efforts in keeping the Garment District thriving and alive. That is a matter of sustainability. There are also small initiatives that I do. I’m doing the LaQuan Smith for Olivela initiative, where we’re using older fabrics to produce and reconstruct core, bestselling styles that people know us for, exclusively sold on their platform. Twenty percent of the sales go to a charitable cause of the consumer’s choosing at time of purchase. 

WW: Is there a product or category you haven’t explored yet but would like to?

LS: I envision expanding as a global luxury lifestyle brand. I want to expand in beauty and fragrances, and handbags and shoes. I want to do it all. I don’t even feel like I’ve reached the surface yet. 

WW: You recently launched menswear. When you design menswear, are you designing things you’d like to wear? 

LS: I do want to mirror what I’d want, or what is missing in the market. I’d also tie that back to a mood board of different men that I might be inspired, or by men that I might envision wearing LaQuan Smith. Off the bat, that’s Lenny Kravitz, Pharrell Williams, A$AP Rocky, and Michael B. Jordan. I can see them in the LaQuan Smith format, for sure.

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