Saga Furs and LaQuan Smith Speak Style and Sustainability
posted by Gemma Chambers and Angelika Cwiklewski
This article is part of a series of interviews conducted by LIM students with winners of the Accessories Council's 2020 Design Excellence Awards (DEA). Students are enrolled in Fashion Merchandising Professor Andrea Kennedy's Honors Introduction to the Fashion Business class.
What do you get when you mix fur with femininity? The collaboration of luxury womenswear designer LaQuan Smith and Finland-based sustainable fur company, Saga Furs and the “I’m Moving Out” bag demonstrates just that.
Retailing at $9,500, the oversized white fox fur bag is made to order upon customer request. The bag debuted on the runway in Smith’s 2020 Fall/Winter collection and was awarded the Accessories Council 2020 Design Excellence Award for “Best Runway Fur Accessory”.
Recently, we spoke with LaQuan Smith and Charlie Ross, Saga Furs Head of Sustainability and Supply-Chain Management.
(LaQuan Smith) How did you get your start in the fashion industry?
After battling rejection from top design schools in New York City, such as FIT and Parsons, and instead of altering his work to fit into the box of others, Smith carved out his own lane to success. Smith formed an LLC and held his first New York Fashion Show in 2010. He started designing leggings and spread them around the city. Over time, he began gaining support from notables in the fashion industry and built his line from there.
(LaQuan Smith) What was your inspiration for the “I’m Moving Out” bag?
Smith wanted to convey female empowerment, as well he aimed to create a conversational and cartoonish piece.Smith described the story behind the bag as the idea of a woman who chooses to get out of a relationship that does not recognize her worth. So she packs and says "I'm leaving."
(LaQuan Smith) What influenced your material selection and collaboration with Saga Furs on the bag?
Smith wanted to design a statement piece and relive the heydays of fashion, which were fun and in your face. To create a bold piece, he chose fox as the fur to stand out as a big and directional statement. In regard to working with Saga Furs and Charlie Ross, Smith felt it was important to work with a company that aims to provide a support system for designers like himself.
(Charlie Ross) Can you tell us about your experience in the fur business?
Ross said that he entered the business as a summer job and has been in the fur trade since he graduated from college. He has worked in the manufacturing, retail, and sustainability parts of the fur business.
(Charlie Ross) How does Saga Furs ensure its sustainable regulations and ethical-branding strategies are tightly followed?
Saga Furs produces an annual sustainability report and is a long-time member of the United Nations Global Compact. Saga is very involved in setting goals that align with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Ross mentioned the company is totally transparent.
(Both) Do you plan to collaborate with each other again in the future?
Despite disruption in the fashion industry from this year’s pandemic, the two plan to partner again and overcome the obstacles of the current market. Saga Furs is committed to supporting designers like LaQuan Smith and creating demand and a relaunch for both fur and fashion in these times.
(Both) What advice would you give to young adults who desire to be in the fashion industry?
Ross said that you have to maintain a vision for the future because the first job you are going to take probably isn’t going to be your last. He adds that you have to be in it for the long game because it isn’t an industry of quick returns. Smith said to push boundaries and take risks but ultimately to have fun. He said the hardest part is releasing your hard work for the world to critique so it's important to stand true to who you are and what you are creating.
Smith and Ross gave us great insight on fashion, design, and sustainability. We’ll be watching for their next collaboration!
Cwiklewski (top left) and Chambers (top right) on Zoom with Charles Ross (bottom left) and LaQuan Smith (bottom right)