Fashion designer Michelle Smith and SoulCycle director Stacey Griffith make their debut with their active clothing line, Love & Sports, at Walmart. The line is designed to be fashion-forward, with vibrant colors and unique fabrics.
Over the past two years, fashion designer Michelle Smith and SoulCycle instructor Stacey Griffith have touched dozens of fabrics, spit brand names and tried out sports bra and leggings while relaxing at home or sweating during exercise.
Now the New York City-based couple reveals their secret project: Love & Sports, an elevated brand for active clothing and swimming that they debut with Walmart. The new brand will be on the big-box retailer̵[ads1]7;s website on Friday and will be rolled out to 1,500 stores.
“I think some of our friends actually thought we were going to have a baby because we could not talk about anything and said, ‘We can not go.’ We have something to work on, “said Griffith.
“I guess we kind of get a baby,” Smith said with a laugh.
Smith co-founded the exclusive clothing brand Milly and designed the dress worn by Michelle Obama in her Smithsonian portrait. Now she has a newer series of eponymous slim things, from silk camisoles to alpaca coats, which can cost as much as $ 2750 each.
Meanwhile, Griffith has gained a following as an indoor cycling instructor and gone on a motivational ride with Oprah Winfrey. The designer and training instructor met – and later started dating – thanks to a SoulCycle class.
The fashion-forward clothing collection is another sign of the retailer’s efforts to shake up its reputation and become known as a place where shoppers can find stylish garments along with milk, bananas and TVs.
Walmart has launched a growing number of exclusive and sublime fashion names, including Sofia Jeans, a denim brand developed with actress Sofia Vergara; Eloquii Elements, a large-sized women’s brand inspired by the acquired brand Eloquii; Scoop, a trendy brand for women’s clothing; and Free Assembly, a clothing line with everyday wardrobe items for men, women and children.
It has also utilized the star power of other fashion names, especially in the hiring of Brandon Maxwell – who has dressed famous women including Lady Gaga – as creative director of Scoop and Free Assembly.
Love & Sports will be sold on Walmart’s website and in 1500 stores. The first collection includes 121 pieces that range in price from $ 12 to $ 42.
Walmart, which still receives most of its annual revenue from the grocery business, does not break out of clothing sales from other general merchandise, such as home furnishings and electronics.
Denise Incandela, executive vice president of clothing and private labels for Walmart US, said the retailer was attracted to Love & Sports’ unique designs and bold colors. She said the collaboration with Smith and Griffith created an opportunity to stand out in a category where high quality usually comes with a high price.
The idea for the new brand was born when Smith reached out to Incandela through an instant message on Instagram in the first months of the pandemic. Incandela, an alumna from Saks Fifth Avenue, knew Smith because the luxury chain had her Milly clothing line.
Smith later shared some introductory sketches she had been working on for a few months. “It’s just such a natural extension of Stacey and myself that it almost designed itself,” she said. “It just flowed through on paper.”
Smith, who trained at elite fashion houses such as Hermes and Louis Vuitton, said she and Griffith were looking to make clothes that fit both budget and body.
The brand’s first collection includes 121 pieces that range in price from $ 12 to $ 42. It includes retro running shorts, cropped sweaters and seamless bras. It varies in size from XS to XXXL for active clothes and up to XXL for swimwear.
The items have details that mix street fashion and fitness, such as many pockets for mobile phones, invisible zippers on the inside to secure credit cards and waistbands that can be worn with a high waist (Smith’s preferred style) or rolled down for a low waist look (Griffith’s preference).
Love & Sports will be adding footwear and accessories, including sneakers and handbags, this fall.
Love & Sports debuts with swimwear. In the autumn, the line will include shoes and accessories.
Activewear has become a warmer but more crowded field during the pandemic. Sales in the men’s and women’s clothing category rose from $ 52.3 billion in 2019 to $ 70.8 billion in 2021, an increase of 35% over the two-year period, according to The NPD Group. The market research group includes all clothing with active functions as a moisture-transporting substance.
Kristen Classi-Zummo, an industry analyst who covers fashion clothing for The NPD Group, said that some observers believe that as the pandemic subsided, people would go out into the world dressed again and eager to wear formal attire like in the roaring 20s. .
Instead, she said, people have largely looked for comfortable and versatile garments that fit into a hybrid lifestyle, such as pants with enough stretch to allow a quick walk around the block between virtual meetings or a longer sports bra that can combined with training. leggings as well as jeans and heels.
However, as the category has flourished, so has the number of brands vying for market share. The number of active clothing brands has increased from 1600 in 2014 to 2400 in 2021, according to the NPD. This field includes players from Lululemon and Nike to private labels launched by the likes of Target, Kohl’s and Dick’s Sporting Goods.
Classi-Zummo expects active clothing to remain popular this year and beyond, but has a lower growth rate than double-digit in 2021 – and that, she said, will increase competition for consumers.
“We still expect it to grow, but what is a brand to do in a marketplace that sees less growth and much more competition?” she said. “She’s been buying active clothes for years. She does not need a pair of black leggings. What special features, what new fit, new fabric can you offer to keep her or him interested in the category?”
Griffith said Love & Sports was inspired, in part, by a pandemic-related shift to “an era of delicious drugs.”
She said she has already secretly operated the brand in SoulCycle classes, but hid sports bras under tops and worn shorts without a logo. Now, however, she is looking forward to her big revelation.