Emily Smith, Creative Director of Lafayette 148 has a gift for perfecting a garment from the inside out. And she’s very much in tune to what her customer's want to wear. From trend forecasting to developing each collection, to traveling the globe to source the finest fabrics, Emily has helped guide Lafayette 148 New York to a new level of luxury. While she was at South Coast Plaza to celebrate the grand opening of Lafayette 148’s West Coast flagship boutique, she was nice enough to take the time to answer a few questions about the brand, her fashion faves, and how she feels about the fashion sense of the Orange County woman.
1. I’m curious where the name Lafayette 148 originated?
It was our original street address where they built the company 22 years ago. It was originally Chinatown, a factory building. We've then since moved the factory to China. Just this year, literally three months ago, we left that building at 148 Lafayette St. and moved to Brooklyn. There's an old Navy yard that they've built up to be a very creative, sort of industrial space. So, we're taking on a new venture.
2. So, what is Lafayette 148 most known for?
I always say it’s our craftsmanship and our attention to detail in our fabrications. We use all Italian fabric. We spend a lot of time in Italy, sourcing, working with the mills to develop, especially with the printers, to come up with our own unique prints. And while we're in China, we really have those fabrics tell us what they want to be. Down to the finishing, to the detailing, and how we want to construct the garment.
3. Tell us about the design process and what makes Lafayette 148 stand out?
We get a lot of feedback from our customers and the one thing everybody always says is the craftsmanship, the quality and the attention to detail. And I feel that's a big strong point to what we do. We believe the inside of a garment should be just as beautiful as the outside. So, it’s all those hidden details that are uniquely innate to what we do. Fashion is becoming fast fashion too much, and that kind of detailing is lost a little bit, but we feel like the time with pieces need to be important. That you can have your wardrobe for a long time.
4. How did Lafayette 148 choose South Coast Plaza for its West Coast flagship store?
We see South Coast Plaza very much an international mall. And we just thought this was really the best place to open up. As well as the customers in Orange County are very fashionable and I think that's really important, too. There's this kind of casual sensibility, but fashionable sensibility all at the same time and we felt like that was perfect for us to cater towards.
5. How do the items at your flagship store differ from those that you might find in a department store?
You know, all of our department stores buy very differently, actually from each other too. We want to get to know our core customer, who she is and build a collection and a story around the products. At our flagship, you’ll find more head-to-toe wardrobing. Which is really, I think, important for customers to be able to mix and match, and have that versatility in all their pieces.
6. It's such an iconic New York brand, how do you think it translates in Orange County?
I think what drew us here was that sort of fashion sensibility. That love for this dressed up/dressed down effect, and versatility in clothes. We think that versatility of this sort of lux factor in our fabrications, and the easy simplicity of the design will be great for the customers here.
7. So, you started as a designer’s assistant in 2002. And tell us how the brand has evolved over the past 16 years.
It evolved a lot. I think we really are client/customer-centric. We like to really spend a lot of time getting to know her, what she likes, what makes her tick. I think being a woman run business, we're very sensitive to what feels good on. Not only what looks good but what also feels good. And it's practical, and functional, but beautiful all at the same time. So, we're learning from our customers as we grow too, just what's working, what's not working, what she's missing in her closet, and putting her personal spin on all those things. I mean, it's been really fun to sort of evolve the brand. Also, as we've evolved our factory, technologically wise, we've evolved the quality, and sort of have these endless boundaries of what we can create. So it's been a lot of fun, we've had great partners with our wholesalers to let us play the floor and evolve all of that. And now with opening up retail stores, we're excited to sort of build more of a brand message and continue with this story.
8. So, when you say that you listen to your customer, do you have like ambassadors or how does that work?
We have field people all over the country, so they are heavily involved in working with, not only the stores, making sure our stores have all the right product, but they're very often in the face of a lot of our customers. We have a lot of trunk shows, and things like that too would give us a lot of opportunities to meet with people. We do a lot of events where it's either myself or people from our sales team really had a lot of one on one conversations. And also online, we get a lot of local feedback. We have an option where they can fill it in, let us know their frustrations, or their amazing and incredible experiences too. I think the experience is every bit as important, and that's really a focus from the top down in our company too, it's just making sure that there's like an inclusivity to our customers. It's just like we don't care who she is, what she is, anything, it's really everybody should walk out feeling really happy and beautiful.
9. And what is your personal design aesthetic?
I'm a minimalist. I prefer the cleaner, the better. I think a lot of our prints ... between myself and my boss. She's Italian. We have a love for art and architecture, it's really important for us. You know, I went to art school, so I got a fashion degree but I feel like I got more of an art education. So between our printer usually very artistically inspired, and the cut and everything is really sort of architecturally inspired. I think there's sort of like a sculptural in the way that we cut the garments, and with the drape of certain things or the structure of the coats. It has a minimalistic but interesting shape to it.
10, What is the piece you can't live without?
I'm a turtleneck girl. I love a good turtleneck. Especially when traveling, I think it's a good perfect layering piece. I think a cashmere turtleneck or a Merino turtleneck is a must-have. Also, good blazer.
11. What trends are you seeing for fall/winter?
I see a lot of green happening. I see a lot of kind of burgundy, rust kind of colors happening as well. A lot of leopard. Animals are back in a big way. I’m really loving longer silhouettes that give a nice long lean shape to it. Updated, sort of dressy cocktail, but not so evening, it's more cocktail I think, it's more appropriate so, some sequins thrown on top of things. We have a really great sequin skirt that's like a jersey, and it's nice and stretchy, and if feels so good on, and it looks great with just like a cashmere sweater thrown over it because it's like this easy dressed up/dressed down kind of thing. There's a lot of that kind of fun, festive stuff happening into winter. I think winter whites are really important. And longer jackets. I think longer jackets become really great as well as high waisted pants.
12. What are the items every stylish lady needs in her wardrobe?
The perfect pair of pants that she loves. I would say a good, great white shirt. Perfect cashmere sweater. Trench coat. Good blazer. I think those are your good staples. A turtleneck. Depending on where you live I guess.