Meet the Design Talents of Equinox and L'Officiel USA's Future of Fashion Initiative

Alejandra Alonso Rojas, LaQuan Smith, and R13's Chris Leba are shaping fashion's next big wave.
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Chris Leba, Laquan Smith, and Alejandra Alonso Rojas. Photography by Sophie Elgort / Shot at Equinox Hotel New York

Photography by Sophie Elgort

Styling by Sean Knight

Shot at Equinox Hotel New York


New York Fashion Week has long been a place for celebrating the heritage of classic American designers, but it's equally famous for the buzz of emerging talents who get their start in the city that never sleeps, grabbing the attention of buyers and fashion experts alike with creativity, craft, and a forward-thinking mindset. Keeping in step with this New York tradition, L’Officiel USA teamed up with Equinox Hotels to celebrate the fitness and lifestyle group's Future of Fashion initiative, honoring designers Chris Leba of R13, LaQuan Smith, and Alejandra Alonso Rojas. Each have been making their mark on fashion with collections that have challenged the status quo and built a growing following, making them an exciting trio to celebrate at the start of a new decade.

From its luxury fitness destinations to its new range of hotels, Equinox is at the forefront of modern lifestyle, joining together with a range of talents in the fashion, entertainment, and creative spheres to build a vibrant community. The brand has made a well-rounded and relaxed lifestyle more covetable than ever and has collaborated with the likes of Naomi Campbell, making its New York flagship hotel the ideal place to fête the next wave of design talents. Last month during fashion week, Equinox and L'Officiel USA celebrated Leba, Smith, and Rojas at the lifestyle brand's New York hotel, which spans floors 24 to 38 of 33 Hudson Yards. The hotel promises a rejuvenating experience with technologically advanced rooms, a recovery-driven spa, and dining that merges wellness with cutting-edge craft, among other amenities. Equinox Hotel New York's Electric Lemon restaurant and bar created a luxurious environment to celebrate the designers with an intimate dinner and after-party, and the hotel property now acts as the perfect backdrop for new photos of the designers and their creations in action. 

Equinox and L'Officiel USA couldn't be more excited to highlight Leba, Smith, and Rojas, who all embody the future of fashion with their innovative design approaches and attentiveness to the changing nature of the industry. Read on to meet each designer and see some of our favorite looks from their latest collections.

Chris Leba

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Photography by Sophie Elgort / Shot at Equinox Hotel New York

Name: Chris Leba

Instagram: @R13

Place of birth: Dalat, Vietnam

Zodiac sign: Sagittarius

Inspiration for the latest collection: R13’s Fall 2020 collection was inspired by U2 and photographer Anton Corbjin, who captured the band in the desert of Joshua Tree while on tour.

My muse is: Allison Mosshart, the lead singer of The Kills.

My motto is: Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

My alter ego is: Sid Vicious.

My favorite travel destination is: Hoi An, Vietnam.

My first piece of designer clothing was: A faux snakeskin blazer from Helmut Lang in the '90s that I couldn’t afford but bought anyways.

The future of fashion is: The future is all about sustainability; therefore, it is also the future of the fashion industry. 

What was your first job? I was a waiter and bus boy at a local restaurant in Montauk, New York in the summer of ‘83.

What do you do all day? To encourage productivity, my alarm is always set for 6:45 AM no matter what day of the week it is. The majority of my time is spent going in and out of meetings. Once I leave the chaos of the office, I look forward to rushing home to spend quality time with my lovely daughters, Bella and Daisy. 

Why do you live and work in New York? I’ve been in love with NYC since my early teens because of the song “To Turn You On” by Bryan Ferry. I was a lost soul before I came to New York, and I found myself here.

What was the last thing you ate? A baguette from NYC’s best patisserie, Almondine.

Laquan Smith

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Photography by Sophie Elgort / Shot at Equinox Hotel New York

Name: LaQuan Smith

Instagram: @laquan_smith

Place of birth: New York

Zodiac sign: Virgo

Inspiration for the latest collection: Old New York glam post-breakup season. Powerful, dark, and badass. 

My muses are: Grace Jones and Lil Kim.

My motto is: “Slow and steady wins the race.”

My alter ego is: Lay.

My favorite travel destination is: Tulum, Mexico.

My first piece of designer clothing was: Gucci loafers.

What was your first job? Working retail at Banana Republic.

Who is your favorite artist? Randy Cooper.

What do you do all day? Work.

Why do you live and work in New York? It’s where I was born and raised. This city has taught me almost everything I know about fashion, culture, and inspiration. I thoroughly enjoy being a native New Yorker.

What was the last thing you ate? Popcorn.

Alejandra Alonso Rojas 

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Photography by Sophie Elgort / Shot at Equinox Hotel New York

Name: Alejandra Alonso Rojas 

Instagram: @alejandraalonsorojas 

Place of birth: Madrid, Spain

Zodiac sign: Leo 

Inspiration for latest collection: This season, the saturated colors of Francisco de Goya’s portrait of Doña Teresa and the calm minimalism of Marguerite Kelsey by Meredith Frampton particularly spoke to me. However, my most important inspiration was a portrait of my Great Aunt Pilar, taken in the 1960s on the streets of New York City. Enveloped in a colorful striped scarf to shield her from the rain, this intelligent female surgeon appears powerful, chic, and the embodiment of casual luxury. 

My muse is: My grandmother.

My motto is: Teamwork.

My alter ego is: My dog Latte. 

My secret crush is: Cillian Murphy.

My favorite travel destination is: Europe – Spain, Italy, and France.

My first piece of designer clothing was: A Balenciaga dress.

The future of fashion is: Responsible and slow fashion

What is your favorite work of art? The Hope painting by Klimt.

What do you do all day? A few things. I am a mum, I design, I run a company, attend events, and see my friends. Sometimes I think the day has more than 24 hours. 

Why do you live and work in New York? I’ve always loved the energy and diversity in this city. I work on everything from design to production with my incredible team and artisans in NYC, and we have lots of incredible friends who are like family in the city. 

What was the last thing you ate? I am eating right now! Bread with tomato and serrano ham.

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