Rules To Live By Fashion

Here's the Fashion Etiquette Rule Designer LaQuan Smith Loves to Break

LaQuan Smith. All images courtesy of LaQuan Smith.

Welcome to Rules To Live By, where CULTURED asks sartorial voices—renegades, visionaries, and annotators—to unpack their style DNA and share the edicts they follow (and break) in the absurd game of life.

Before he was dressing Beyoncé, Rihanna, and Kim Kardashian, LaQuan Smith learned to sew from his grandmother in Queens. The designer, who eschewed a traditional education for self-promotion and mentors like André Leon Talley, then launched his eponymous brand at just 21, sending a line of form-fitting creations down the runway. He’s since become known for his slinky cut-out designs, often adorned in furs and hardware. His tireless drive has yielded a fast-growing empire, bolstered by a clientele of women “not afraid to be the center of attention.” 

This New York Fashion Week, Smith, now 35, is set to show a collection he characterizes simply as “bossy.” Ahead of the debut, the designer offered CULTURED insight into his personal dressing habits, the keys to his success, and the fashion guidelines he has put in place for both himself and the “LaQuan Smith woman.” 

What do you think being self-taught afforded you that an institutionally trained designer might not possess?

Being self-taught has allowed me to grow and learn at my own pace effectively. I have failed or fallen many times, and it has allowed me to appreciate the small victories. More importantly, the advantages of getting my hands dirty with real inside industry experiences and working on a business from the ground up. 

What can you tell us about the theme or mood of the upcoming show? 


How would you describe the experience of showing your work in New York? 

Everything sexy starts at 9 p.m. My shows are electrifying with great energy. It’s a glamorous experience that leaves guests wanting more. The show is moody and evokes sensuality and attitude with all my hot muses walking the runway.

Laquan Smith's Fall/Winter 2023 runway. Photography by Don Ashby.

What was your personal style like as a child? 

Bright, vibrant, lots of prints and textures. I was scissor-happy for many years. Almost everything I owned was bleached and shredded. Deconstructing clothes was my happy place.  

Who or what do you attribute your current personal style to? 

I pull from many sources of inspiration—everyone from my grandfather to Tom Ford, Lenny Kravitz, David Bowie, Mick Jagger, and the Studio 54 nightlife era.  

What does your closet look like? 

Surprisingly, my closet is very organized. I wouldn’t categorize myself as OCD. However, I'm very meticulous on how things should look. I literally cringe if someone doesn't hang my trousers properly by the crease. My closets are organized very specifically by product categories. Specifically, all trousers together, all blouses together, all outerwear in one place, so forth and so on...

How do you get dressed in the morning? What does that process look like? 

Getting dressed in the morning starts with my skincare routine. It's imperative for my skin to feel moist, hydrated, and healthy throughout the day. A typical workday for me consists of all black head-to-toe, a leather boot, and a conversational oversized handbag that I can stuff all my things in. Also never leave the house without perfume!  

What's a lifelong fashion obsession of yours? 

My late grandfather’s coats and blazers. I own several of them. He had such great style. They are very timeless, cool, and sentimental to me. I’m blessed to have pieces of him with me. 

What would someone have to wear on a first date for you to walk out? 

Skinny jeans. Just call me Speedy Gonzales babe. I'd be out!

Laquan Smith's Spring/Summer 2024 runway. Photography by Don Ashby.

LaQuan Smith’s Rules to Live By:

  1. Always have a killer playlist! Good music helps to set the mood no matter the occasion.

  2. A signature scent is a must. Smelling good is sexy.

  3. Never hide your beautiful self! The LaQuan Smith woman is not afraid to be the center of attention, and neither should you!

  4. Every woman should own a LBD.

  5. Always wash your face before you go to bed… skincare is key.

  6. Let go of what you're used to, wait for what you deserve. 

  7. Navy is the new black.

  8. Always look at the glass half full. Preferably with champagne.

  9. Despite popular belief, I think it's totally appropriate to place your evening handbag on the dinner table so everyone can see how beautiful and expensive it is. It’s a work of art! Why shouldn’t it be displayed? 

  10. Dress well no matter the occasion.