“My closet,” says Joan Smalls with a smile. “Being around so many creative people, [we models] see firsthand how [designers] deal with fabrics, silhouettes, with what’s in — and how they think. And you absorb your surroundings.”
Last season, Smalls took this on-the-field training and spun it into her first-ever collection for True Religion: a 16-piece capsule based on her sporty-yet-fierce off-duty aesthetic. For fall, the two have teamed up again for an even bigger collection launching today.
So what did the 27-year-old learn from her design debut? “Women want to feel sexy,” says Smalls. “They want to feel beautiful and confident no matter what they wear — and you always obtain that look with easy pieces.”
For the Puerto Rican native, who describes her own style as “easygoing chic,” those key pieces include buttery soft T-shirts with leather sleeves, cropped neoprene sweatshirts and skinny jeans with edgy gunmetal zipper details, all in vampy shades of inky black.
Below, she tells us about her key pieces — and (crucial!) how to pick the jeans that will most flatter your butt.
What designer have you learned the most from?
"Riccardo Tisci, my friend. He’s so into what he does. He’s so involved.
Peter Dundas is another one. He always loves to bring out the sex kitten in a woman.
Alexander Wang, I just love how he’s sporty and more chill and that’s one side of me."
Why a peacock print sweatshirt?
“My parents lived in Connecticut when I was born, and then they came to Puerto Rico and decided to get six acres of land and every single animal you can imagine. They had cows, dogs, turkeys, chickens, pigs, ducks and peacocks. I remember picking up the feathers and playing with them. They’re such a graceful animal.”
What do you envision yourself doing after modeling?
“After modeling I envision myself drinking a lot of coconut water, kicking back and relaxing and enjoying the fruits of my labor. I’m putting everything into place now, outside of modeling, that’s business oriented, and [will] see income come from that.
Will New York be home?
"The one thing about New York that I like and I don’t like is the energy. New York really sets that frame of mind of going hard and wanting to prove yourself and do more and make the most out of your time. The hustle is real and it makes you grow as a person. I love that about the city but at the same time I don’t like it. When you’re on vacation and you’re relaxing you’re like, 'Oh my god' you feel guilty that you should be doing something with your time instead of enjoying it. I could never say bye to New York but it’ll be my half time. I’ll retire somewhere sunny."
Whose style do you admire?
I like Pharrell's. It’s always been unique. He takes his style one step forward and he does it with confidence.
Rihanna, she’s ballsy. She goes for it.
Her styling tips
1. “Always make sure your butt looks good in the jeans,” says Smalls. “It’s all about the pocket size.” (To wit, the model asked that the True Religion horseshoe logo, on the back pockets, be made smaller on her line.)
2. Pick a classic wash. “I need a pair of jeans that five years from now, I can still go back to it,” she says.