Fashion designer Michelle Smith and SoulCycle trainer Stacey Griffiths debut their sportswear collection, Love & Sports, at Walmart. The line is designed to be on-trend, with vibrant colors and unique fabrics.
Over the past two years, stylist Michelle Smith and SoulCycle trainer Stacey Griffiths have touched dozens of fabrics, tinkered with brand names, and tried samples of sports bras and leggings when lounging at home or sweating during workouts.
Now, the New York City-based couple is revealing their secret project: Love & Sports, the high-profile sportswear and swimming brand they debuted with. Walmart. The new brand hits the big retailer’s website on Friday and rolls out in 1,500 stores.
“I think some of our friends actually thought we were having a baby because we couldn’t talk about something and we said, ‘We can’t go,’” Griffith said. We have something to work on.”
“I think we’re kind of having a baby,” Smith said, laughing.
Smith co-founded high-end clothing brand Millie and designed the dress that Michelle Obama wore in her Smithsonian portrait. She now has a newer selection of stylish items, from silk shirts to alpaca coats, that can fetch as much as $2,750 a piece.
Meanwhile, Griffith gained a number of fans as an indoor cycling teacher and went on a motivational tour with Oprah Winfrey. The stylist and fitness trainer met—and later began dating—thanks to a SoulCycle class.
The trendy apparel collection is yet another sign of the retailer’s efforts to shatter its reputation and become known as a place where shoppers can find stylish clothes along with milk, bananas, and televisions.
Walmart has launched a growing number of exclusive and upscale fashion names, including Sofia Jeans, a denim brand developed with actress Sofia Vergara; Eloquii Elements, an oversized women’s brand inspired by the Eloquii brand; Scoop, a trendy women’s fashion brand; and Free Assembly, a clothing line of everyday wardrobe pieces for men, women, and children.
She has also harnessed the star power of other fashion names, particularly in Hiring 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 1,500 stores. Her first set includes 121 items ranging in price from $12 to $42.
Walmart, which still gets the majority of its annual revenue from the grocery business, doesn’t break apparel sales from other general merchandise, such as home decor and electronics.
Dennis Incandela, executive vice president of apparel and private labels at Walmart US, said the retailer was drawn 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 at a high price.
The idea for the new brand was born when Smith reached out to Incandela through a direct message on Instagram in the early months of the pandemic. Incandela, a Saks Fifth Avenue graduate, knew Smith because the luxury chain had its own Millie clothing line.
Smith later shared some of the initial sketches she had been working on for a few months. “It’s just a natural extension of Stacy and I, he almost styled himself,” she said. “I just poured it out on paper.”
Smith, who has trained in elite fashion houses such as Hermès and Louis Vuitton, said she and Griffith were looking to create clothes that fit budgets and bodies.
The brand’s first set includes 121 items ranging in price from $12 to $42. They include retro running shorts, tank tops and seamless bras. They range in size from XS to XXXL for sportswear to XXL for swimwear.
Items have details that blend trendy and fitness, like plenty of pockets for cell phones, invisible zippers on the inside to secure credit cards and waist belts that can be worn high-waisted (Smith’s style favorite) or rolled down for a low-waisted see-through (Griffith’s preference) .
Love & Sports will add footwear and accessories, including sneakers and handbags, in the fall.
Love & Sports debuted in a swimsuit. In the fall, the line will include shoes and accessories.
Activewear is becoming a hotter, but more crowded, field during the pandemic. Sales in the men’s and women’s apparel 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 suite includes all clothing items with active features such as moisture-wicking fabric.
Some observers are betting that as the pandemic subsides, people will go out into the world dressed again and yearning for the formal dress code they were in their twenties, said Kristin Clasey-Zumo, an industry analyst who covers fashion apparel for the NPD group.
Instead, she says, people have largely searched for comfortable, versatile pieces that fit into a hybrid lifestyle, like pants with just enough stretch to allow a quick walk around the block between virtual meetings or a taller sports bra they can pair with a workout. Leggings as well as jeans and heels.
As this category boomed, so did the number of brands vying for market share. The number of sportswear brands increased from 1,600 in 2014 to 2,400 in 2021, according to the NPD. This field includes players from Lululemon And nike To the special signs launched by the likes of GoalAnd kohl And Dick sporting goods.
Classi-Zummo expects sportswear to maintain its popularity this year and beyond, but its growth rate is slower than the double-digit growth rate in 2021 — and that, it said, will increase competition for consumers.
“We still expect it to grow, but what brand should it do in a market with less growth and more competition?” She said. “She’s been buying tracksuits for years. She doesn’t need another pair of black leggings. What special features, new fit, and new fabric can you introduce to keep her interested in class?”
Griffiths said Love & Sports was inspired in part by the pandemic-related shift to the “era of delicious fabrics”.
She said she actually secretly wears the brand to SoulCycle classes, but she hid her sports bras beneath tops and pairs of logo-less shorts. Now, though, she’s looking forward to her big reveal.