Meet Lafayette Kanard: Philadelphia's Rising Designer
By: Dominique Vasquez
Based out of Philadelphia with ties to the New York fashion scene, Lafayette Kanard is an east side artist who entered the industry with an unconventional start. Kanard’s platform focuses on a “Go LEFT” movement - an acronym he uses to inspire himself and others: Live, Evolve, Forseek, Truth.
Kanard shared how he went from being discovered in a high-end boutique to selling products next to Rick Owens, Céline, and Y-3. He also shared insight with us on his artistic inspiration, plans for the future, and more.
What made you get your start in the industry?
I got my start in 2013 creating custom pieces for myself and people who kept asking me to make pieces for them. That turned into me moving pieces, hustling in Philly and NYC. I had no understanding of the business of fashion until I met a lady in a downtown Philly high-end luxury boutique called Joan Shepp. While shopping for my first pair of Y-3’s, I was wearing a pair of Robert Wayne desert boots which I camouflaged free-hand with a sharpie marker. The lady asked if I wholesale - I had no fucking clue what wholesale was. She gave me her card and said: “I’ll see you in a few years.”
That same year I applied for a men’s buyer position at Joan Shepp and inquired 7 times but never got the job. One day I go in to shop for a new wallet and the guy who filled the position I wanted, asked if I was from L.A. and if I was a designer. At the time I didn’t consider myself anything but an artist, I responded: “Naw, I’m from West Philly and I’m an artist!” I had some custom pieces with me that I was dropping off to a few clients. He asked to see them and I handed him a t-shirt I called “SPLASH” that had splattered assorted color paints on the sleeves. He took the tee to the back for like 3 minutes, came back and said, “Joan & Ellen Shepp wants to buy these in!” I thought he was playing, but he was deadass! I had a week to come up with samples, got them done in time to meet with Ellen Sheep, and they loved them. I had to revamp the sample designs to sell to their demographic. I came up with the concept of the go LEFT long sleeve which features front and back bottom painted stripes with space on sides for functionality and a left stripe around the left arm. My pieces sold out the first week I had placement, I sold next to Y-3, Rick Owens, Céline, and Philip Lim.
Can you explain your inspirations and influences and how you apply that to your work?
My inspiration comes from real-life experiences. All the peaks and valleys I go through fuel my artistic expression. My artistic influence also comes from my background in architecture and design. The high school I graduated from, CHAD, taught me various techniques from all mediums and art history that I still use to this day to hand-paint and create my pieces. I apply the architectural measurements, drafting, and stenciling techniques I’ve learned in high school and put my twist on it to hand-paint my pieces for bold, clean finishes.
Photos: @leftbylk, @l3ftgod
What are your thoughts on the behind-the-scenes process of creating your platform?
Photos: @leftbylk. Models: @livinfor.kicks and @abrielmilan
It’s a process, and not as easy as it looks. It’s tedious and can be very stressful at times but most definitely worth it. Sometimes you have an idea and think its the dopest shit ever until you actually create it, release it, and it flops and doesn’t sell. That’s the beauty of ideas, not all of them are going to work but you get a few that resonate and take off! Just stay consistent.
Is there anything in specific you plan to achieve in the future?
I want to do a @LEFTbyLK collab with both the MoMa and Whitney museums.
What is your favorite part of the design process and do you have any advice for fellow entrepreneurs/creatives?
A favorite part is hard to choose, I love it all! However, the most rewarding part of this process is having my art pieces influence and connect with people of all backgrounds and ages. My motivational words for fellow creatives/entrepreneurs is to go LEFT! Live. Evolve. Forseek. Truth. Follow GOD and follow your heart, practice patience, stay positive, stay persistent, and stay prayerful. There are no limits - if a kid from West Philly can do it, you can too!