Before debuting his fiery fall collection on the runway this evening, New York designer LaQuan Smith took a moment of silence to acknowledge the late and great André Leon Talley—the longtime Vogue editor who changed the industry as we know it, due to his discerning eye and unparalleled enthusiasm. Silk long sleeve dress The crowd, previously riotous with laughs and photo ops, went silent. During the chaotic, fast-paced week, it was a classy touch on Smith’s part that reminded one to take a moment and to reflect. It also allowed spectators to quite literally take a breath, before having it taken away by the ultra-sexy clothes that followed. (The opening number, for instance—modeled by Julia Fox, It girl of the moment—was a black turtleneck dress with bold chest cutouts; the crowd went wild for it.)
Smith chose a special venue to present his vampy collection of brazen going-out attire this season: a grand space downtown that used to be the Down Town Association, a private member’s club founded in 1859. “My woman is a bit provocative, and there’s something quite provocative about this space,” Smith said pre-show. “Lord knows what was happening here back then.” He began with a traditional cocktail hour downstairs, then come showtime the VIP guests—including And Just Like That’s Nicole Ari Parker—moved upstairs. Beige formal dress Though they briefly bottlenecked on their way up, smushed together like a pack of expensively-dressed sardines, nobody seemed to mind, since it meant being able to see one of New York’s most exciting names.
When the show began, it was very much worth being corralled like cattle for. After two years of the pandemic, and the overuse of terms like “comfort dressing” or “loungewear,” Smith wanted to dial up the sex factor for fall and vouch for the return of naughty glamour. This resulted in loads of sequins, fabulous mink coats, and extremely-mini skirts that just skimmed the buttocks—like a modern-day take on wild Studio 54 style. “This collection was really about the revival of New York City and celebrating life again,” said Smith. “I wanted to create a collection that gave women a sense of hope and celebration.”
His color palette of neutrals, paired with electrifying golds, reds, and blues, certainly woke you up with a jolt. Smith does sexy well. Sequin- or mink-covered body suits were paired with low-slung trousers that exposed hip bones. The dresses were cut short with deep-V necklines, while his version of leather pants came all zippered up like a moto jacket. Outerwear was a new category push for him, Smith said: “It’s all about these super-strong, big, New York shearlings, with these little itty-bitty sexy silhouettes underneath. It’s cold outside, but she’s going somewhere.
Smith’s clothes are certainly not for wallflowers. In the spirit of recent collections from, say, Blumarine or Versace, Smith sees the future of fashion as a time to be raunchy and show some skin. After two years of sweatpants, this feels right. Smith, though, doesn’t see his va-va-voom pieces as any less worthy of investment than, say, a classic white button-down. “I’m offering pieces that are timeless—that women could incorporate and be the center of attention in whenever they go out,” he says, adding that his customer doesn’t want basics. “In the middle of a pandemic, my sales went up 87 percent for body suits and catsuits. I was like, ‘ Where are these women going?’ People still want to go out and get dressed up.”
There were a few key women who stuck with him during the design process as well. He cited style icons like Lil’ Kim and Grace Jones, as well as the regular everyday Manhattan women he’s witnessed growing up in New York. “I’d see women teetering in their heels in the Meatpacking District, when New York was vibrant, fun, and all about nightlife,” says Smith. “That kind of energy and level of excitement is what I’m trying to revive.” Puff long sleeve dress His latest assortment, he says, is what he envisions the current crop of New York party girls wearing. “It’s fresh, young, and sexy,” said Smith. “To me, it’s the new New York bitch.”