LaQuan Smith, one of our 15 designers to watch, holds a special place in my heart. I met the 22-year-old designer last year when he was working up to 19 hours a day out of his tiny bedroom in his grandparent's house in Queens to prepare for his first show. He's scrappy and works his ass off and he couldn't be more humble about his success (he's dressed Lady Gaga, Alicia Keys, and Rihanna).
Yesterday, like last season, LaQuan presented his show retro-style: Guests were seated at round tables (this time in a suite at the Peninsula Hotel), and models sashayed about the room pausing at each table to strike a pose. Only this season, as evidenced by the celeb-packed room, buzz has built around this young designer. While Andre Leon Talley has supported LaQuan since the beginning, for his second show, Talley brought along Diane von Furstenberg. Sandra Bernhard and Common were there (not together), and Serena Williams closed the show (maybe she is back with Common?).
LaQuan's show was a nice break from the typical runway show. Instead of the standard issue vacant stare, his models engaged with the audience, even flirting with them, eliciting tickled shrieks from ALT himself. They actually looked like they were, gasp, having fun. And why shouldn't the models be having fun? The clothes were a naughty over-the-top romp through Versaille. Marie Antoinette was LaQuan's muse for Sping/Summer 2011, and he imagined her in the present day, living in Manhattan, where she "dons only Haute Couture luxury while mixing in extreme lighthearted gaudiness." The decadence (models' lips were caked in gold), the bustiers, the brocade was all there, but the skirts were hacked off, flouncy, and, as Common commented, "very, very short." Nighttime looks (maybe meant for the bedroom only?) were sheer, and panties were covered in feathers. The only long dress of the show--an orange and gold brocade bustier dress with a dramatic poofy skirt--was worn by Serena Williams, who closed the show. The only other place we saw Serena Williams this fashion week was by Anna Wintour's side (and that tends to mean a cover story is in the works), so Williams is quite a coup for LaQuan.
Click through to see more looks from LaQuan Smith's Spring/Summer 2011 collection. **All photos by Elisa Hyman