Growing up in Houston, Jaclyn Smith learned a valuable life lesson, one that has served her well in her three decade-plus relationship with Kmart — integrity.
In a conversation hosted by Joe’s Blackbook, the former “Charlie’s Angels” star said that during her childhood in the 1950s, her parents — and her Methodist minister grandfather — “instilled a strong moral code and values in me.”
Buoyed by the love and support of her family, Smith moved to New York City to study ballet. In her time there, she picked up work as an actress in commercials and then some acting roles before she snagged the role of Kelly Garrett in the “Charlie’s Angels” television series. Unlike her original costars, Farrah Fawcett and Kate Jackson, Smith remained with the show through its complete five-year run.
“I signed a five-year contract,” she said, pointing again to the sense of integrity that she had learned at a young age. “So I was going to complete that five years.”
Since then, she has applied that same ethos to her business endeavors, notably the apparel and accessories brand she has had with Kmart, and now Sears, for 36 years.
Smith said that when she was first approached by the retailer, she was under contract with Max Factor, which urged her to turn down Kmart’s offer to front a women’s apparel line because it didn’t believe the store was fashionable enough.
Smith did decline initially, but when the retailer persisted, she did a little more research and was surprised to find that she was drawn to one of its private labels, Hunters Glen, which she described as “very Ralph Lauren, very collegiate.”
She said that while she “never thought I’d be a dress designer,” the Kmart team at the time allowed her to “dream without boundaries” and create a collection that she describes as offering “value with affordability.”
Since it predated Instagram and other social media channels, Smith instead did store appearances as a way to meet her customers to ensure she was giving them what they wanted. “We grew up together,” she said, and over the years, she took chances and made plenty of mistakes, but by staying true to her mission, it has allowed the brand to continue to be popular among its core consumer.
Over the years, the blouses, which she describes as “staples” that are “timeless and on trend but not trendy,” have been among her most popular items.
But the Jaclyn Smith collection also marked the start of a new chapter for the actress: “The beginning of my branding career,” she said.
“If you want to go into branding, stay close to your passion,” she stressed. “Your brand has to stand for something. Ask yourself, what’s its reason to exist? What’s its DNA? If your brand is authentic, you will take your customer on a voyage. A brand is a promise and you need to fulfill that promise.”
In addition to her fashion line, Smith has continued to hone her branding skills by launching a skin care line developed by her husband, Dr. Brad Allen, a physician, as well as a line of wigs, which were especially popular during COVID-19 since so many hair salons were closed. She also has a line of fabrics called Trend.
Smith is also working on a book about her life, which she said is “a very emotional process. It was easy to write the ‘Charlie’s Angels’ chapter,” she said, but it’s been harder reliving her childhood, the loss of her parents and other memories that she wants to include.
Smith said that in the heyday of “Charlie’s Angels” when she could no longer walk the streets unrecognized, she still managed to stay humble. “Celebrity is a particular kind of thing,” she said. “You have to have your feet on the ground because it can overwhelm you.” While this type of “notoriety” can be exciting, she said, she realized that it was really more about her work than herself as a human being, she acknowledged.
Smith, now 75 and a grandmother of two, is also proud that “Charlie’s Angels” was the first show with an all-female cast. She said that while it was often criticized as “eye candy,” she said it was more about celebrating independent females, which was “groundbreaking” at the time.
Ditto for her fashion brand, which she believes was the first celebrity brand to have been launched. “It was one of the wisest decisions I ever made,” she said. “But challenge is rejuvenating, it keeps you alive.”