Walmart Launches Fashion Essentials Brand Free Assembly

Emilee Geist

Walmart is launching a new fashion brand dubbed Free Assembly, broadening its apparel categories since its acquisition of Eloquii in 2018 and its launch last year of Sofía Jeans by Sofía Vergara.

In a presentation in New York City last week, Denise Incandela, senior vice president of Walmart Women’s Group, elevated and online brands, described Free Assembly as a “modern fashion essentials brand that offers elevated style.” The new line will be available from Monday at some 250 Walmart locations and online on walmart.com, with some items appearing online for pre-orders.

There are some 60 pieces in the collection, and prices generally fall within the $9 to $45 price range, Incandela said.

“We’ve seen more and more men shopping for fashion in Walmart, and are excited to bring this brand to them,” she said at the presentation, which was held at a studio at Location05, an event space in the Hudson Yards neighborhood.

The event took place in the presence of a handful of production crew members spaced 10 feet apart in the studio, and who were given Walmart health assessments beforehand, Incandela said. The health assessment includes questions related to COVID-19 symptoms and any recent household diagnoses, along with temperature checks, and ensuring adherence to social distancing guidelines including wearing face coverings, according to the company.

“We’ve been working on the online side at establishing Walmart as a fashion destination by bringing on more than a 1,000 brands online, even in stores bringing on national brands,” she said. “We believe very much in these elevated brands at these price points and are excited to expand our assortment for our customer, who has responded very well to them. So it’s a big part of our strategy.”

The brand unveiled the fall collection to press in the surreal format that’s become a norm in fashion events in the COVID-19 era: a Zoom presentation. Quilted bomber jackets, fleece sweatshirts, carpenter and wide-leg corduroy pants hung off minimalist white clothes racks slanted at an angle on either side of a spare space. Between them, a pair of gray mannequins cut sleek silhouettes in Free Assembly fall layers, reflecting stark studio lights and casting sharp shadows against the spare walls behind them.

Dwight Fenton, lead for Free Assembly, paced in front of the display, presenting the collection’s highlights, including a ruffled blouse made of a lightweight organic cotton poplin fabric, and a printed tiered maxidress. Fenton has previously been chief design officer at Bonobos and senior director, men’s wear, at J. Crew.

The delivery cadence for the collections will follow the seasons, Fenton said, with four collections a year introduced in the fall, the holiday season, and in the spring and summer.

“Free Assembly was created as a brand for modern fashion essentials, with a focus on style and quality at an amazing price,” he said. “The idea behind modern fashion essentials really is that these pieces would be familiar, timeless pieces, but then we would update them and make them feel a little refreshed for today.”

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