By Carly Klein
Named after the address in SoHo where it was founded, Lafayette 148 New York is a global lifestyle brand led by women, for women. The American fashion label is rooted in its mission to make beautiful, meticulously constructed clothing for accomplished women everywhere. Co-Founder and CEO Deirdre Quinn and Creative Director Emily Smith speak to us about their inspirations, Zoom blouses and what we should be buying at the new Bal Harbour Shops boutique.
As a modern lifestyle brand, how is Lafayette 148 evolving its business to meet the changing needs of its customers during this time?
Deirdre Quinn: More than ever, the boundaries between work and home are blurred, and our collections reflect this with pieces that shift seamlessly between different parts of her life. As a lifestyle brand, we’re able to give her all the elements she needs to build her wardrobe. Luxury leisure and the pieces that offer versatility are what is important today. Our responsibly made L148 Authentic Denim Collection has been a fantastic addition to our collection, so we’ve expanded that for Spring with a new, relaxed fit, fresh washes and a great new denim jacket. We’ve also developed into more cozy, head-to-toe sweater dressing, as well as the new essential: Zoom blouses. Pieces like suiting and blazers are part of our heritage and will always be part of our line. But they look a bit different now, whether it’s using more fluid fabrics, designs with less internal structure and shapes with a softer, easier feel. We’re crafting the collection with an eye toward how women are dressing now.
Can you share what it’s like to work for a vertically integrated company led by women, for women?
DQ: I get up every day excited about helping women. That’s what inspires me—helping women feel their power so they can win in their worlds. Our company is 70 percent women and we’re all Lafayette 148 customers. We completely relate to who she is and what we can do for her. For us, it’s always about putting her needs first.
It’s also really unique in the fashion world that we’re vertically integrated, meaning that from start to finish, our garments never leave our hands. That allows us to make changes faster, as well as ensure the integrity and quality of our garments. We employ all the artisans who create our garments, ensuring an ethical, traceable, transparent production process. To have this incredible flexibility, reliability and control over every element that we produce was really the reason why my co-founder and I began Lafayette 148, and it’s even more important today.
What does the spirit of New York City mean to the Lafayette 148 brand, especially during this unique time of massive change that the city is undergoing?
DQ: We LOVE our New York roots. New Yorkers are incredibly resilient and creative by nature. I’m confident that we will get through this together. Our city—and our country—will be different but stronger.
We’re a New York brand named after the SoHo address where we were founded nearly 25 years ago—and we do everything we can to support our city and our community. At the start of the pandemic, we immediately pivoted to help the city produce reusable surgical gowns for NY-area hospitals. Within the week we went from making beaded dresses and leather jackets to hospital gowns which we manufactured here in our studio at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. We also launched a limited-edition mask collection benefitting City Harvest, an organization which helps feed families in need throughout NYC, and for the holidays we partnered with God’s Love We Deliver, which delivers nutritious meals to New Yorkers suffering from serious illnesses, from HIV to cancer and COVID-19. It’s meant so much to me and my entire team to be there for our city when it needed us.
How does the brand continue to develop its focus on sustainability, and as a leader, how do you boost sustainability awareness?
DQ: Caring for the world beyond our four walls has always been woven into the fabric of who we are, and I’m so proud of all that Lafayette 148 is doing to work toward a more sustainable future. This year, we’re focusing on our “Kind” materials—named after one of our three core Lafayette values of Kindness, Intelligence and Integrity. With Holiday, we launched KindCashmere sweaters made with responsibly sourced fibers, and for Spring we’re introducing a new, consciously crafted KindCotton collection featuring all of our iconic Italian cotton White Shirts and a new organic cotton Chambray that’s just incredible. We are proud to partner with leading, sustainably-minded mills that are the best in the world—and its quality that you can really see and feel in every piece. With sustainability, it’s so important to not just talk the talk, but to walk the walk. I believe we all have the ability to make a difference, and when given the choice, we choose the more sustainable option every time.
How do you translate the Lafayette 148 “New York City” aesthetic into other markets including the U.S. and abroad in China and Europe?
DQ: There’s a modern, New York sensibility that’s always in our designs. While the women we dress are from all over the world, there’s a dynamic, NYC spirit that they share. As we continue to grow globally, we know that women are busy building their lives, and we’re happy to be there to build their wardrobes. Our customers are smart and discerning and have choices. She’s drawn to Lafayette because she recognizes the integrity of the pieces. What it really comes down to is great design, great fabrics, impeccable construction and uncompromising quality. That’s what we stand for, and I think that translates anywhere in the world.
From a design assistant to creative director, tell us more about your journey with Lafayette 148 New York.
Emily Smith: I feel very lucky to have ‘grown up’ as designer at Lafayette 148. We’re a vertical company so—in the past—we’ve had the unique opportunity as designers to visit our production facility four times a year and work hand in hand with our artisans to create each collection. Over the years, I’ve developed a really rich understanding of the level of luxury that we’re capable of, as well as a strong relationship with our team there. So when Deirdre asked me to take on the role of Creative Director, I couldn’t wait to get started. There’s SO much for us to work with and having all of these incredible resources at our fingertips gives us the ability to innovate and let our creativity go wild.
During the pandemic my team and I haven’t been able to visit in person, so we’re using video fittings and this incredible 3-D technology that allows us to work virtually with our production facility. The power of our strong relationship is what made this transition work. We’re no longer limited by where we are physically, and I think that will transform the way we approach our process in the future. (Although I’m still counting down the days until I can visit again!)
How have your travels weaved into becoming the core of your design inspiration?
ES: As someone who travels a lot, I don’t pack a lot—I pack smart (or at least try to). It’s all about getting the most out of each piece. This mindset is a big inspiration for how we approach our collections and the practicality of how we design things. Engineering pieces that do more and translate to wherever we are, whether that’s staying home, venturing out in the world, or traveling. We design versatile items that are made and cut beautifully and feel incredible to wear.
How does the brand continue to elevate its designs for the “woman who needs to move from one commitment to another without missing a beat”?
ES: The way women are dressing now, it’s less about an occasion and much more about fluidity between casual and luxury, and how all of that gets blended together in an interesting mix. I think the effortless uptown/downtown sensibility of New York style that’s part of our handwriting and the way we approach styling naturally lends itself to this. I always love that juxtaposition of something fancy with something laid-back, something masculine against something feminine—that cool, understated simplicity of how New Yorkers dress.
When thinking about the Bal Harbour Shops client, what pieces come to mind from the current collection?
ES: For Spring I was inspired by reconnecting with nature and this idea of urban Edens—all of these natural moments and hidden paradises within cities—which is kind of perfect for South Florida. The accessory of the season is this incredible handwoven Sun Hat—there’s nothing better than a really good floppy hat and I’m obsessed with ours. We have all of these little poplin dresses in our new, sustainable KindCotton that feel super light and cooling in the heat. There are great airy, open weave knits that are perfect for breezy nights by the water—I love even just tying them across your shoulders or around your neck. Our hand-painted print this season is a fusion of zebra stripes and the textile weave, chevron, that I call “Zevron” — it has a sort of urban safari effect that I think is super fun. And we have some gorgeous sculptural leather sandals that I see her throwing on every day. There’s also just an easy air of effortless luxury with this collection that feels right for our Bal Harbour Shops woman.
Can you share one of your favorite Bal Harbour Shops memories with us?
ES: The first time we visited Bal Harbour, I was struck by how beautiful it is—all of the palms, the gorgeous vegetation and the unique indoor/outdoor design. It was such a pleasant environment to shop in that we didn’t want to leave! We went to Le Zoo for steamed mussels and white wine. It was such a perfect evening—we can’t wait to go back!