LaQuan Smith Tells Aspiring Fashion Designers, Don’t ‘Take on Too Much At Once’

LaQuan Smith offered valuable advice to the next generation of fashion designers by encouraging them not to spread themselves too thin before getting their brands off the ground.

The luxury fashion designer and founder of womenswear clothing brand LaQuan Smith, LLC sat down for an in-depth panel discussion as part of SHEIN’s first-ever Design Summit. The global e-retailer of fashion, beauty, and lifestyle products is looking to onboard 500 more aspiring artists and designers to its growing SHEIN X incubator program.

The summit allowed hundreds of artists and designers to rub shoulders with industry leaders and be inspired to take their brands to the next level with SHEIN’s flagship incubator program. Since the program’s launch, 1,500 aspiring designers from the U.S. have been empowered and amplified. Now, the company is looking to onboard 500 more in the U.S. in 2023.

The Future X at SHEIN X Design Summit: Virisa Yong/BFA courtesy of SHEIN

To help motivate aspiring artists and designers, the day-long summit featured designer-dedicated programming and networking opportunities, including a keynote panel discussion with Smith, where he shared four key pieces of advice to the next generation of fashion designers.

“I think it’s important as designers and creatives to not take on too much at once,” Smith said.

“I’m a firm believer that slow and steady wins the race; grow graciously, understand the ins and outs of what works and what doesn’t. And I think that eventually, throughout time, you know, give people a little bit at once. You can’t give ’em too much.”

When it comes to preparing for success in fashion, Smith says it’s best to figure out the identity of your target audience.

“I think it’s really important to understand where you want to be placed in fashion,” he explained. “Figure out the brand DNA.”

“Figure out what the ethos of your brand means. What does it represent? What does it mean if a woman wears your item or your piece? What is the takeaway? Where does she live? What does she smell like? How old is she? Does she have kids? What kind of car is she driving? Where is she traveling to?”

“These are all the things that I think help a designer really put into perspective who their target audience is, what they’re designing for, who they’re designing for,” he added.

LaQuan Smith: Virisa Yong/BFA courtesy of SHEIN

The Queens, New York, native explained the importance of keeping a close circle of loved ones and confidants who help pour into you as you share your art with the world.

“You definitely need to surround yourself with people that believe in you,” Smith said. That’s number one.”

“Surround yourself with people that are excited about what you’re doing,” he continued. “Surround yourself with people that are smarter than you.”

As for how to tap into your creative flow, the womenswear designer shared his secret of traveling and visiting museums as the source of his inspiration.

“I mean, you can go take a trip. Trip is always nice,” Smith said. “Go to the museums. The Met is always beautiful. If you’re not a member at the Met, sign up. It’s always just nice just to go and just really dive deep into the history of things. Obviously, the New York Public Library is just, the library’s great.”

“I mean, I think that it’s just exposing yourself to as much as you can,” he added.

“Like I said, take a trip, watch some movies, get into it. Go back and go back in time. Pull up old references. That’s sort of how I do things.”