The History of Budget Fashion: Jaclyn Smith for K-Mart

When actress Jaclyn Smith debuted her Jaclyn Smith for Kmart line in 1985, many thought she would meet the same fate as the designer Halston, who’s line for JcPenney resulted in the end of the Halston brand. Twenty Five years later, Jaclyn Smith for Kmart line has sold over $100 million (yes MILLION) worth of product.

Jaclyn Smith

To understand how ground breaking the Jaclyn Smith for Kmart line was, we need to take a short trip back to the 1980s…..

The 80s was a time when labels, whether on your clothes or on your business card, were very, very important old business card circa 1980s). Brooke Shields was splashed across billboards everywhere wearing Calvin Klein Jeans. Movies like Wall Street and Beverly Hills Cop showed the fast world of BMWs and Armani suits and underscored the importance of status during the “Me” decade. Labels and status was everything.

So, in 1985 K-Mart was a joke, literally. The biggest zing you could give someone was to say they purchased their clothes from K-Mart. Basically K-mart in the 80s was like Wal-Mart in the 90s….but worse. K-Mart was one very small step above Goodwill/Salvation Army. In fact, several K-Marts had lunch counters (who remembers that??) placed in the middle of most stores that sold really good sandwiches and fried chicken gizzards.

My point? 1985’s K-Mart was the last place you would look for fashion.

(On a personal note, because K-Mart was like the fashion plague, I would go there to purchase supplies for my lucrative Friendship bracelet business at significantly lower prices than my competitors who had their parents drive them to the more expensive Target. Take That Brad Holsten!)

So for the queen of the TV mini series to do a line of clothing for K-Mart was a real risk. Fortunately for Smith, it’s a risk that led to millions in sales.

Jaclyn Smith line

Smith continues to be one of the most successful celebrity-turned-designers around, creating a pathway followed by other celebrities, who are more successful on the racks than they are on the screen (Jessica Simpson comes to mind). Furthermore, Smith is actually involved in the design of her line, spending time with designers in the K-mart style studio in New York, going over designs for each season, with a laser sharp focus on updating perennial key pieces like the classic white shirt or the black pants.

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Catherine Brock

Catherine Brock is a writer, editor and marketer who's been sharing wisdom online since 2002. She's been featured on, and ABC7 Chicago, FOX2News St. Louis and KCAL9 Los Angeles. Connect with Catherine on LinkedIn, Instagram, or Twitter.
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