Julia Fox steals the show as LaQuan Smith sticks to glamour at New York Fashion Week

<span>Photograph: Charles Sykes/Invision/AP</span>
Photograph: Charles Sykes/Invision/AP

LaQuan Smith’s autumn/winter 2022 show at New York fashion week on Monday evening started over an hour late.

It soon became clear why – a celebrity was involved. Julia Fox, the model and actor who has had the lens of the paparazzi trained on her for months thanks to her recent relationship with Kanye West, opened the show and caused a hush across the audience.

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Her arrival was preceded by something a little more somber - a moment of silence for Smith’s mentor, former Vogue editor André Leon Talley, who died in January. ‘This one’s for you, Andre’ said a voice over the sound system before the show began.

Talley, who loved glamour, would have been proud. The collection was ripe with the dressed up style that Smith has made his trademark.

A model walks the runway
LaQuan Smith shows his new collection at New York fashion week. Photograph: Caitlin Ochs/Reuters

There were red sequined dresses, faux fur corsets, gold leggings, cut-out frocks, Lurex and very short miniskirts. Every model wore sky high heels.

Fox’s appearance could be seen as a flex from Smith regarding his increasingly powerful position within the celebrity landscape. The designer has also dressed Rihanna, Beyoncé and Irina Shayk. Hailey Bieber wore his dress last summer when she met French president Emmanuel Macron in Paris.

As well as glamour, Smith is gaining a reputation for taking on American landmarks. After his show in September at the top of the Empire State Building, this show was in a private club right at the heart of Wall Street. It could all be seen as a statement of intent - he plans to go to the very top of American fashion.

A model walks in the LaQuan Smith fashion show
Models wore textured and glitzy looks as the designer reinforced his focus on glamour. Photograph: Kena Betancur/AFP/Getty Images

It’s fair to say the audience here weren’t the usual people found in grand rooms with wooden-panelled walls. Club kids with pink hair, extra wide shoulders, PVC and tutus mixed with fashion types in catsuits, faux fur and leather. There wasn’t a pinstripe suit in sight.

Smith - like many of the Black designers now on the calendar at New York fashion week - has had a circuitous route to the top of fashion, and his celebrity connections have been central to his rise.

Rejected by prestigious schools Parsons and FIT, he first produced textured leggings, which were worn by Lady Gaga and Kim Kardashian, and founded his brand proper in 2010, aged 21.

Glamour has always been his stock in trade - an aesthetic also bought by non-celebrities thanks to collaborations with Asos and Revolve.

Smith, 33, counts fellow designer Tom Ford and former Vogue editor Andr&#xe9; Leon Talley among his mentors.
Smith, 33, counts fellow designer Tom Ford and former Vogue editor André Leon Talley among his mentors. Photograph: Caitlin Ochs/Reuters

“I’m here to bring sexy back!” he said to Vogue Business in September. “Where are the women who want to get dressed up and look fabulous? That is the kind of people I need to market myself to.”

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This glamour unexpectedly saw him through an era of lockdowns. While sweatpants were the norm for many, Smith’s collections of cocktail dresses, sequin leggings and satin blouses had a sales surge of 87% from early 2020 to September 2021

He was mentored by powerful industry figures including fellow designer Tom Ford and Talley. Talley was instrumental in Smith’s career - as the first person to write about his work - hence the designer dedicating the show to him.

A model walks in the LaQuan Smith fashion show
Smith has become a celebrity favourite worn by Rihanna, Beyoncé and Irina Shayk. Photograph: Caitlin Ochs/Reuters

“There was no limit to the amount of support or guidance he gave,” Smith said to the New York Times.

“When I was designing out of my grandmother’s home with no team or money, cutting patterns out of newspapers, André gave me the money I needed to travel to Paris for the first time.”