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News Bites | Joan Smalls' Designs on Mass-Market Lingerie

In today’s News Bites, model Joan Smalls shares plans to design an intimates collection for Smart & Sexy, set to hit Walmart stores in Spring 2018.
Joan Smalls for Smart & Sexy Spring 2017 | Source: Chris Colls
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  • BoF Team

Welcome to News Bites, BoF's regular feature of the stories that get the industry talking.

Joan Smalls is to design her first intimates line for a mass-market brand.

The model will design swimwear and lingerie for Smart & Sexy that will hit the brand’s e-commerce site and Walmart stores in Spring 2018. The collection is the first intimates design collaboration for Smalls, who has walked in the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show since 2011.

Smalls first worked with Smart & Sexy, and the brand's founder and chief executive, Ariela Balk, in December when she was cast as the star of its Spring 2017 campaign.

“I fell in love with the brand and the fact that they cater to women of all sizes at affordable pricing,” says Smalls. “Ariela Balk really impressed me and I found a great admiration for her as a businesswoman. When it comes to design, we agree in many aspects and we both are super excited about the collaboration.”

“She has a great eye for fashion,” says Balk of Smalls. “She understands that you have to make women of all shapes look beautiful. She also shares that philosophy that you don’t just make an item because it was on the runway and it's the trend item of the moment.”

She understands that you have to make women of all shapes look beautiful.

The forthcoming collaboration marks a new chapter for Smart & Sexy as it seeks to capitalise on a period of disruption in the lingerie market. Victoria’s Secret has been struggling to maintain momentum as other players like American Eagle’s Aerie are finding growth by pursuing a less sexual marketing message.

“In some ways, our brand has been the best-kept secret,” says Balk, who started Smart & Sexy’s parent company, New York-based Ariela & Associates, in 1997 as an intimates manufacturer before launching her first in-house brand ten years ago.

Between Smart & Sexy and Fruit of the Loom, which the company also produces, Ariela & Associates is Walmart’s largest bra supplier and one of their largest women-owned suppliers. Balk even has an office in Arkansas where the retail giant is headquartered and plans to remain a key partner to the company.

"We are very well positioned for the changing environment," says Balk, calling out Smart & Sexy's competitive price point (under $15 for bras) and extended size range (32A to 46DDD). Balk says her product is made in the same factories as Victoria's Secret, but because she supplies 4,000 Walmart stores, she is able to offer lower prices through economies of scale. — Chantal Fernandez

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