Joan Smalls has launched her first swimwear and intimate apparel collection with Smart & Sexy, a New York-based lingerie and swimwear company. The swimwear will be available Tuesday at select Walmart stores and Smartandsexy.com, while the intimate apparel collection is set to launch in July.
“From concept to creation, my goal was to create beautiful pieces, with a variety of sizes, all at affordable prices,” the 29-year-old model said.
The swimwear collection ranges from crop and triangle bikini tops to French cut bikini bottoms, one-piece swimsuits and fishnet cover-ups in various neon and neutral colors. Prices range from $10 to $24 and sizes run from small to XXL. Tops range from 32B to 40DDD.
In a telephone interview, Smalls, who is represented by IMG Models, said she was inspired by Ariela Esquenazi, who founded Ariela & Associates in 1997 as an intimates manufacturer before launching Smart & Sexy in 2007. “Here is a woman who was self-made, knows everything about business and I just wanted to be surrounded by that,” she said.
She was introduced to her when Smalls modeled for an ad campaign in Jamaica. Smalls told her she would love to do a collaboration with her. Esquenazi is Walmart’s largest bra supplier and one of its largest women-owned suppliers.
Smalls wanted to bring a variety of unique styles, silhouettes and colors, and was eager to offer something for everyone. “It’s also understanding the different female shapes and how to enhance it and flatter. I know that being on the beach can sometimes be intimidating. How do you attain that? Not everybody’s built like me, and I understand it. I know my mother always had problems shopping for the right swimwear that kept her in place while she was swimming and being active and at the same time look good,” she said.
Yet the collection reflects her style as well. “I’m so eclectic. I can go from sporty, tomboy chic to very classic styles,” said Smalls, who is one of the most sought-after models and rose to prominence after walking in the spring 2010 Givenchy Couture runway show. Smalls has since walked for such designers as Marc Jacobs, Louis Vuitton and Prada, and has appeared in campaigns for Estée Lauder, Chanel, and Stuart Weitzman.
She added that the styles are sold as separates. “When you travel, you want to make smart decisions. I hate checking luggage. It’s about how do you mix-and-match pieces. In the collection, there are certain items that are the same colors but are in different styles,” she said. She also noted they incorporated fishnet cover-ups and velvet and sequin bikinis, along with both flat and high-waisted bottoms. “There’s a range of styles. I feel that fashion is always cyclical, and I always love bringing back old-school looks,” she said.
She said she was happy that the collection is sold at Walmart. “Everybody wants to look good regardless of their spending budget, and I think that’s important. It’s about affordable prices but still having high quality.” Growing up in Puerto Rico, Smalls didn’t have luxurious and high fashion brands. “There was a Walmart in my town and that’s where we would shop. There’s some history there,” she said.
She said her mother is well endowed [a DD cup size] and always struggled to find the right swimsuits that fit well. “She was completely blessed in that department. She’s trying to make sure it stays in and still looks good, and I was trying to enhance the little bit I had,” she said.
Smalls and Esquenazi first worked together for the launch of the Smart & Sexy Swim Secret Collection last year, but this is the first time Smalls is designing the swimwear. Smalls previously did a denim collaboration with True Religion Jean.
“Joan has such a great eye for design and such eclectic taste. There is something for everyone to enjoy in this collection,” Esquenazi said.
The ad campaign was shot by Chris Colls at the Delano in Miami Beach. Styling was by Joanne Blades, hair by Kayla Michelle and makeup by Sir John.
The intimates collection includes neon lace bras and matching panties, long line bra silhouettes in unlined mesh and push-up options and sheer bodysuits. Prices range from $6 to $28 and the collection is available in select Walmart stores, walmart.com and Smartandsexy.com.
“I just think intimate apparel just goes hand and hand [with swim]. It was also about being fun and expressive. As women, when you buy intimates, you’re doing it for yourself. You’re doing because it looks good and feels good. Not everyone is seeing it,” she said. “I also use a lot of my intimates as outerwear.” She’ll wear a cage bralette that comes in black and white with high-waisted jeans or skirts.
Both the swimwear and intimate apparel are for one-season only. “But there is a possibility” it would continue beyond that, Smalls said. Both collections carry the label Joan Smalls for Smart & Sexy. To promote the line, Smalls plans to travel to one of the Walmarts on the East Coast and will attend the Essence Music Festival.