You had only to look at the crowd of people packed inside the lobby and vestibule of the Bryant Park Hotel to understand the anticipation. Sprinkled among the editors, bloggers and stylists were notables like celebrity and stylist June Ambrose, Bravo TV reality star Chef Roble and noted fashion editor Memsor Kamarake. They were among over two hundred guests who braved rain, long lines and Valentine’s Day couples to watch the 9 p.m preview of the Laquan Smith Fall 2012 Collection.
As we made our way through the waiting guests a divide was clear. Half seemed to have come to critique a young designer whose meteoric rise left many wondering if he was hyper talented or simply hype. The other half was there to congratulate him for a meteoric rise which -—if nothing else — has put young Black designers on the map. Ironically, Laquan Smith gave great reason to do both.
The Queens born designer, who first debuted in 2010 with a splashy neoprene based collection titled ‘Water Goddess,’ delivered exactly what he’s known for— a show of epic proportions. Over a dozen models dotted the club-like atmosphere, tucked in corners, standing on tables and smiling by banquettes. Guests, cocktails in hand, milled about gawking at the pieces as electronica-infused club mixes boomed from the speakers.
In the frenzy it was almost hard to miss the point: the clothes. Those who bothered to take a second look would have seen the most epic element of all — a young designer who has stepped into his own. Laquan delivered a collection filled with the strong, structured, almost exaggerated shapes. They were the foundation of sophisticated two-piece suits, sexy mini dresses and dramatic crop tops and capes. Accenting the entire line were clear PVC pockets, trimmings, necklaces and cuffs. To highlight his theme of the ‘Robotic Dream’ Smith opted for trimmings with a metallic quality that gave the effect of a hologram. This combined with slick back pony tails, subdued lips and dramatic winged eyes gave a strong picture of the Laquan Smith woman in 2012.
“She’s a mature woman at the top of her mountain or a woman in her twenties,” he explained in a private suite before the show. “Whatever stage in life she’s in, she’s my modern take of the New York City woman. She’s vampy, she has a hard edge and she’s tough.”
She’s also found her signature. While the liberal use of neoprene and overwrought shapes are almost too reminiscent of collection’s past, they form the foundation of what is now clearly Laquan’s signature fabric, shape and look. The dedication he’s shown to this glitzy aesthetic underscore the dedication he’s shown to an equally strong part of his label: his business. Unlike years past, this collection and subdued versions of it will become available to customers and private clients for retail shortly.
As Laquan shares this, he beams with a smile. He knows what his critics and congratulators who waited patiently to see the collection have just discovered: Laquan Smith — the man and the label — is no longer just hype. —Zandile Blay