LaQuan Smith talks about the 11 Honoré initiative and its spring 2022 line
New York designer LaQuan Smith’s clothes are often described as redefining sexy for the new age. The Queens native’s tiny hems, emphasis on figure-hugging silhouettes, and emphasis on a person’s natural body shape certainly represent sensuality, but leaving a description of the LaQuan Smith brand as simply “sexy” would limit it. broad approach to fashion. Over the years, Smith has translated his philosophy into ready-made office wear (illustrated with pencil skirts and tailored boleros for fall 2021); preppy, Prince of Fresh Bel Air-esque looks (fall 2019) and playful evening outfits inspired by crooks and crooks (spring 2019).
It was this diverse methodology that ultimately inspired 11 Honoré Design Director Danielle Williams Eke to call on Smith for the latest plus size ecommerce site initiative, which launches today. Over the next three months, 11 Honoré will host the work of BIPOC designers on its website, starting with Smith and Greta Constantine. Buyers will be able to purchase LaQuan Smith originals in sizes 8 to 22. “One of the things I love about LaQuan Smith is its unique fabric selections,” said Williams. W. “Fabric is so important in the fit process, and because we were working with a fabric that is not widely used in the plus size space, his team provided us with a fit so we could figure out how to give direction. measuring and ranking to him and his team. Based on this direction, we had a few sets of fittings, which led us to finalize the collection.
For Smith, the opportunity to expand his reach – which has already stretched from catwalks to streetwear plaques – in retail is just another aspect of his growing business. “I’m building an American luxury brand and I want to capitalize on what I already have,” he says. “Of course there will be club and evening wear, but there will also be cotton and terrycloth. You might get a Hanes t-shirt, but a LaQuan Smith t-shirt? Baby! There will be something exciting about it.
In his Style Notes interview below, the designer, who was one of this year’s CFDA / Vogue Fashion Fund Award recipients and is currently working on his Spring 2022 collection, discussed the fit of his pieces. for a new client, keeping his business thriving amid the pandemic, and why his mother is his biggest influence in fashion.
11 Honoré has been a reseller of the LaQuan Smith brand for some time. How did you first meet the folks at the luxury shopping site?
It was at a conference in Oxfordshire, London, I remember it vividly. We were part of a panel with Bethann hardison and Kerby Jean-Raymond, speaking about diversity and inclusion in fashion. The owner of 11 Honoré was also on the panel, and afterwards they approached me, like “LaQuan, would you be interested in making the offers for the plus sizes?” It was overwhelming because at that time, and even now, I’m still new to wholesale – I sold to Saks Fifth Avenue and recently to Nordstrom. But seeing my retail business thrive, even despite the pandemic, has been amazing.
11 Honoré’s design director, Danielle Williams Eke, said that with plus size clothing, getting pieces to the right size is a process of several months. How did that fitting process go for you and Danielle, when it came to translating your clothes into a bigger parenthesis?
The plus size fit was definitely a challenge, I will be completely transparent. My philosophy and my ideal of how I design revolve around the return of the bodycon and the celebration of the female form. I wanted to make a conscious effort to include and make sure the clothes fit the body of all clients. Danielle is right: all women’s bodies are different, some women are wider at the top than at the bottom, some women have wider shoulders. What I contribute to Honoré 11 is organized, and everything is not for everyone. I wanted to make sure that the pieces I am offering were suitable for sizes 8 to 22. It was really about being selective about the pieces on offer and staying true to who I am as a designer, so when a woman wears a blouse, or a long dress, or a skirt, she still feels that same sensibility of being shamelessly sexy.
What is your mood board for your next spring 2022 collection? What inspires you?
The return to society, and the reopening of the world, especially in New York. We’ve been hit hard by the pandemic here, and it’s crazy that we’re doing better than a lot of other places. It is this strength and this power that the city possesses; New York will never die. We’ve been through all of this crazy things and we still manage to come back. My ultimate inspiration is therefore this energy: the nightlife and the glamor of New York. Spring will be more, it’s more. There will always be room to celebrate anything.
Let’s get into the Style Notes questions. What’s your go-to outfit on a day off?
I’m generally pretty cool and easy going on my day off. I’ll probably be wearing briefs and skinny jeans and a t-shirt. I don’t really dress like this unless I have to go outside outside. Usually these are flared jeans or black bell bottom, sandals and a t-shirt. But I like a good accessory.
What’s the last thing you bought?
A pair of black Prada platform loafers. They are very back to school, they look so collegiate and black is my uniform. As a designer, I feel a little bit guilty about buying clothes because I can design any piece of clothing I see and love. So my escape from buying other designers is through perfumes and handbags, boots and shoes. This is where my madness goes when it comes to fashion. I admire my peers and what they do, but I like to stay in a LaQuan Smith format when it comes to clothing.
What’s the best fashion tip you’ve picked up on the set?
I already know it by heart: safety pins are essential. And double-sided tape, for plunging necklines and fabrics that need to stay put. They are essential on a photo shoot, on a set, for a show. And it’s something that I could easily have in my bag every day, with a tape measure. I always have a tape measure in my bag. Sometimes I take it out to dinner with some of my girlfriends, like, “Come here, girl, let me measure your waistline.” They say to me: “LaQuan, what’s your problem?” But I always go from the factory to a fitting, so these are my essentials.
Speaking of what’s in your bag, what do you always make sure you have with you besides a tape measure?
Obviously my wallet, my lip gloss, I always need lip gloss, it’s so important to me. I hate talking to people with chapped lips. Hand sanitizer is my thing. But the keys, the wallet, the lip gloss and the hand sanitizer, and I’m pretty good to go.
What’s your favorite lip gloss?
I love Dior, it’s pink with a bit of glittery highlights.
What was your style as a teenager?
Oh my god, crazy, crazy, crazy. I don’t even know if I want to talk about it! I have pictures of going to Greece in a neon green leopard print catsuit. Then I went through this phase of “I want my name to be known. I want to take out my clothes. I remember hosting the New York Fashion Week parties in my own designs, my own 3D leggings and catsuits. I was really fearless. I mean, more fearless than I think today. I had absolutely nothing to lose. I wanted to be photographed. I didn’t care if you laughed at me because I knew what I had was special. My friends would tell me “LaQuan, this is hot”, and people who didn’t know me would totally hate me. But that’s what you’re supposed to do. And I encourage young children to be creative and do whatever their heart desires, because that is part of the journey to find themselves. You have to go through a bit of chaos to get a feel for who you are.
What did other children wear when you were growing up?
Everything that was in fashion. Everyone went through the phase of True Religion jeans and Pelle Pelle jeans, Ecstasy jackets, but my mom didn’t buy any of that for me. And if you think you’re a young teenager, you’re probably still in school, got a little side job, and you’re making some money, but I was making my own thing. I cut denim jackets, laundered them, ripped them, and put them in the washing machine. I would take some of my mother’s old lace blouses, or her old leather skirts to create quilts on the shoulders of my shirts.
Your mother looks like a very stylish woman.
My mom really shaped my taste and my fashion. She had me at a very young age, so I know it sounds weird, but I felt like I grew up with her. I remember her working for Blue Cross Blue Shield at the World Trade Center in the 90s. I remember watching her dress for work before I went to school. She had put on those red or blue, or camel-colored boiled wool skirt suits. And she was getting on the train in her sneakers and pantyhose, and when she got to her building, she would put on her heels. I saw my mom from work life to night life, and it really shaped my tastes, tailoring and fashion. My mom loved to dress up, so I take inspiration from her looks from the ’90s because she was the quintessential woman of that era.
What is the most precious asset in your wardrobe?
I don’t really know the answer to this question because I have a lot of pieces and each piece has a specific story. Every piece in my wardrobe has been well thought out from a design and purchasing standpoint. I’m not a collector, so if something doesn’t suit me anymore or if I don’t feel it anymore, I like to give things away. I rarely donate – mostly I give things to friends who I know will appreciate them. Everything in my closet is so essential, and just because I’ve worn it once doesn’t mean I won’t be wearing it again.
Describe your style in three words.
Currently: 70s, chic and refined.
What style of designer friend or colleague do you admire the most?
I would say Tom Ford. I like the way it looks in terms of aesthetics. Seeing Tom still in a suit or some sort of blazer and a white open neck top is his uniform, he looks the most fabulous in it. I don’t think I’ve reached the stage of wearing costumes yet, but that’s her signature, and I can really appreciate it.