New York Fashion Week: Giants shine outside venue

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(NEW YORK CITY)—Veteran New York fashion week attendees know that some of the best designer collections during the weeklong event are shown away from the official venue.

That was true at Bryant Park, and it has remained true since Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week moved to Lincoln Center in 2010.

Shauntele
SHAUNTELE RICHARDSON, designer, flanked by models at Harlem Fashion Row’s Fashion Show.

Two emerging Black designers who showed here in September and who are worth watching are womenswear designers Shauntele Richardson and LaQuan Smith. Both are New York natives who debuted their labels in 2008 and showed their spring 2013 collections the same day at hotels a few blocks apart.

Shauntele Richardson

Soft pastel colors and a dark graphic image inspired by Rorscach highlighted her spring 2013 collection. The presentation took place in a small, stuffy room at the Empire Hotel across the street from Lincoln Center.

But the Brooklyn designer was in good spirits, perhaps buoyed by camera-clicking guests who crowded into the intimate space to get a look at her latest collection. It was heavy on sportswear and especially frocks—she says she loves dresses—that were modern, wearable and simple but with cutouts, sheer panels, and other edgy design details.

“The challenge of each collection is to portray strength and femininity in these garments I put forth,” she said. “I found the symmetrical and dark forms of the Rorschach ink blots to be a romantic way of symbolizing the psychology of fashion.”

Shauntele Richardson got interested in fashion as she tried to give her boarding school uniforms a personal twist. After college, her professional career included a stint working with a clothing manufacturer in India. As a designer, however, she has chosen to have her line manufactured entirely in Midtown Manhattan’s storied Garment District.

Her label, Shauntelé, has been profiled in various publications, including Jet magazine, and her designs have been worn by high-profile women such as Ivanka Trump and Saudi Princess Ameerah. A voluptuous young woman, she offers her designs in sizes ranging from 0 to 18.

LaQuan Smith

The 24-year-old Queens native has come a long way since he began playing around with the Singer sewing machine his grandmother gave him 11 years ago.

A cancer survivor, Smith began working at a New York City magazine after graduating high school. He soon launched his own label to satisfy a hunger to design fashion.

He quickly began to make a mark on the industry. His young and sexy designs have been worn by a number of A-list celebrities, including Beyoncé, Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Tyra Banks and Alicia Keys.

Smith’s fashion week presentation began nearly an hour late. When his models hit a circuitous runway in the private park of the Hudson Hotel a few blocks from Lincoln Center, some guests were clearly surprised that he had taken a less-is-more approach with his “Beau Jardin” collection.

The less was in the amount of fabric, not in the creativity. The looks he sent out were spare without being skimpy, from bikini tops and cropped tops to short-shorts, sheer skirts and slinky dresses. His well tailored line struck a common chord with what many other designers showed during the week in terms of sheer textiles and eye-catching color.

Smith described the collection as a type of rebirth he experienced during his travels to Nigeria, Botswana, Jamaica, and the British Virgin Islands this year. The looks tastefully reflected the African diaspora inspiration.

“Traveling always inspires me, from the people I meet to the food to the scenery,” Smith said. “The collection is honoring those tranquil places around the world that we often take for granted.”

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