NEW YORK--Lots of celebrities lend their names to products, but few have seen their brands catapult to the size of Kmart's Jaclyn Smith line of apparel and accessories. In nine years, Kmart's flagship private label has grown to a volume estimated at about $150 million a year, with some 30 million American women wearing something from the collections. And while some might play at fashion designer, the "Charlie's Angels" original takes her role in creating the lines as seriously as her acting parts. "I'm lucky in that I can chose my scripts, so I only do things that are really terrific," Smith said in an interview here at the St. Regis Hotel. "That's also how I feel about the collections for Kmart." Smith said she is "totally involved" with the design of her collections. "But it's a team effort, which is why it works. We started with five collections a year, and we're now up to 10. What makes my Kmart collection work is that it's timeless," said Smith, who was in town to promote her NBC-TV miniseries "Family Album," which aired last week. "It incorporates elements we want to wear anytime. And it's easy to wear. You don't need to think, the pieces just work together. That's really important for working women and busy mothers." Smith said that since she started working with Kmart in 1985, the collection has evolved to include more fashion items. "Five years ago, I said I wanted to include khaki pants, and Kmart said they were too drab at the time, but now we have them in the collection," she said. Smith, wearing a gray check blouse, solid gray vest and trousers from her fall collection--which totaled under $60 at Kmart--said some of her inspiration comes from higher-priced collections. Kmart conducts extensive consumer focus groups, however, from which Smith garners a lot of information on what elements of the lines are selling best. The Jaclyn Smith line has branched into many areas, such as shoes, handbags, accessories and hosiery, as well as a fragrance called California. Sometimes Smith and Kmart don't altogether agree on aspects of the designs. When the signature sunglasses were being developed, for example, Kmart wanted to put a tiny Jaclyn Smith logo on the lens, but Smith felt it was distracting. The logo was left off. For herself, Smith prefers tailored clothing in neutral tones or black, but she said there are a lot of other types of apparel that sell well. In the holiday collection, for example, feminine sweaters and velvet leggings are expected to be strong. Previously, silhouettes were more traditional, but this year, Smith included longer tunic shapes and eased up on the beading. When Smith started working with Kmart, she was pregnant, and a maternity line seemed like a natural collection to do. The Smith collection does not include maternity now, but she said she could be expanding to include other areas in the future--possibly a children's collection. "We have a great working relationship," Smith said, crediting Kmart chairman Joseph E. Antonini as "the mastermind" behind the whole collection. "It's important that we've been able to give the masses contemporary clothes at affordable prices. Not everyone can buy Donna Karan," Smith said.
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