LaQuan Smith Is Winning Over Hollywood With Designs – The Hollywood Reporter

Within the past calendar year, LaQuan Smith has hosted a fashion show at the Empire State Building, been feted in Los Angeles to mark the arrival of his brand on Net-a-Porter, and dressed a bevy of stars — Beyoncé, Rihanna, Serena Williams, Kim Kardashian, La La Anthony, Ciara, Dua Lipa and Megan Fox among them. The New York-based designer’s Met Gala afterparty was another highlight, and given the buzz swirling around the brand, it was a fitting time to celebrate. This moment has been more than a decade in the making.

Halle Bailey at the 2021 American Music Awards in Smith’s chocolate velvet lace-up dress.
Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

“Being a designer, designing womenswear, having a brand — [that] was always my dream,” says Smith, 33, who was born and raised in Queens. After being denied admission to both Parsons and FIT, he carved a path that would bring that dream to fruition without a fashion school education. “I definitely was devastated,” he says, “but that form of rejection was ammunition to kind of figure it out and find a way.”

In 2010 Smith’s bold, meticulous and often skin-baring designs grabbed the attention of fashion editor André Leon Talley. A Vogue feature followed, and at 21 the designer held his first New York Fashion Week show. “What no one told me is how difficult it was going to get,” Smith says, noting that, despite the early fanfare, it would be years before he was able to get picked up in retailers and establish a viable, sustainable business. “[But] I’ve always been really focused on my work. I try not to get hung up on those… pedestals.”

Today, Smith is helming a brand found at Farfetch, Moda Operandi and The Webster, and he employs a full-time staff, working from his studio in Long Island City. “One of the things that has really allowed me to be where I’m at right now is my direct-to-consumer business and working with celebrity A-list clients,” he says. “Even though I wasn’t always in the latest editorials or in retail stores, I still had a clientele. Celebrities just really wanted to wear LaQuan Smith [and] It’s a trickle-down effect. The girls want to look like Kim K, Rihanna, Beyoncé, whoever.”

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Model Winnie Harlow at the Net-a-Porter event in a gold gown with thigh-high slit
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The woman Smith designs for, he says, “is unapologetic and sexy, and she wants to be the center of attention.” His aesthetic is inspired by a range of influences — a juxtaposition of the classically feminine codes of dress favored by his mother and grandmother, and the “spicy, moody” looks he grew up seeing on women like Grace Jones and Lil’ Kim. This all translates into body-hugging catsuits, boned bodices, skin-tight short dresses and low-slung miniskirts.

“I think every woman wants to feel and look desired,” Smith says, “so that’s sort of my lane. And to be honest with you, I think it works.”

His fans agree. “I feel like his designs reflect my personality; edgy, cool, sexy, all of that,” says Anthony, who wore a burgundy satin LaQuan Smith gown to this year’s Met Gala, where she hosted Vogue‘s red carpet livestream.

Later, Anthony hit the afterparty circuit in a powder blue lace catsuit by the designer. “He really understands how to make clothes to fit different body types, and really knows how to accentuate my body type and body types similar to mine. He gets it.”

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La La Anthony in a custom gown at the 2022 Met Gala
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Though fashion has only recently begun to embrace curvaceous figures, and diversity and inclusion in its many forms, those things have always been important to Smith. As a gay Black man, the connection to groups is often marginalized and overlooked is deeply personal.

“I don’t think I got a chance to really quote unquote, live out loud, until I was in my early adult years,” he says, adding that he was in his 20s when he attended his first Pride parade.

“It was overwhelming, it was fun, it was exciting,” he recalls. “But the bigger message was that people felt free. People felt excited and liberated to just be who they are, unapologetically. And that is something that I 100 percent live for. I try to incorporate that same kind of messaging and attitude within the work that I do.”

This is especially apparent at Smith’s shows, which the designer likens to the high-energy runways of Thierry Mugler and Gianni Versace, and which Anthony describes as “turned up, lit, off the hook.”

But even amid Hollywood’s embrace, Smith remains laser focused on his goals for his brand: “Keeping it luxe, keeping it sexy, keeping it rich,” he says. “Just making people want more.”

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Megan Fox in a corseted LaQuan Smith dress at the 2022 Fashion Los Angeles Awards
Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

A version of this story first appeared in the June 8 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.