LaQuan Smith (center) with models (l-r): Andrea Tanner and Natalia Solovieva at MUSE / Hair: Jawara Wauchope Makeup: Alana J
Discovered when he was only 21 by former Vogue editor-at-large André Leon Talley, self-taught fashion designer LaQuan Smith sewed his first collection at his grandmother's home in St. Albans, Queens, on a Kenmore sewing machine. "It's not anything out of the ordinary for me," Smith, who's now 24, says. "I've been designing since I was 12. My grandmother taught me how to sew, so that's always just been in the family, creating and designing."
More recently, Smith has developed a reputation for bold, sexy designs and unabashedly unusual shapes. "Some people consider my clothes to be a little bit provocative. I would say so, but that's not my goal. It's about feeling comfortable within your own skin," he says. In February, he showed his 007-inspired "Bond" collection for Fall 2013, one he's especially proud of. "I haven't seen anybody do what I'm doing," he boasts. "I'm not trying to be cocky. I'm just trying to say that at least what I'm doing is something different." That sense of adventure has led Smith all over the globe. He's even shown work as far afield as Lagos, where he participated in Arise Magazine Fashion Week. It's also helped him find renewed creativity at home. "I think that's been the ultimate inspiration...travel," he says.
Now at work on his next collection, Smith hasn't lost touch with what has made him successful so far. "When I'm home, around family, friends, music, my culture, I'm really inspired," he says. He even still lives with his family and isn't afraid to rep a borough that isn't Brooklyn or Manhattan. "I love Queens. I think it's just so diverse and beautiful."