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Joan Smalls, Supermodel, Still Unconfident In Her Fall Layering Skills

Driely S. for Racked

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Being professionally beautiful and surrounded by designer clothes doesn't make getting dressed any less perplexing. "I'm still practicing how to get layering right," bonafide supermodel Joan Smalls tells Racked at a preview of her second collection for True Religion jeans. The statement is punctuated, charmingly, by the fact that the 27-year-old is wearing a see-though knit (from the collection, of course) with just a black bralette underneath. Reclining on a black banquette at a posh Manhattan restaurant mid-day — as a model does — she looks entirely casual in the outfit, prepared to talk denim.

"People always think of True Religion with the pockets and the horseshoe," she admits of the flashy label's design signatures, "and I wanted to show it in a different way." The branding and hardware are more subtle in the pieces she designed, save for a bralette-and-brief set that reads Joan Smalls x True Religion along the elastic. "It's a denim brand I grew up with," she says of her attraction to the partnership, "and denim is the fabric everybody has in their closet." Smalls explains her approach to design, including accessories ("I'm bad at accessorizing"), below.

In a mesh top ($119) and mid-rise flares ($219) from Joan Smalls x True Religion

This is your second collaborating with True Religion. What was different this time around?

We had time to create more of a theme. The first time it was like, "Okay, what can we do really quickly, between shows and all of that?"

I took inspiration from things that I was shopping for, and what I was always looking for. I like clothes that have a detail; like if it's a shirt, does it have leather accent or a zipper — something that stands out?

I'm bad at accessorizing like with belts and stuff, so I built them in. Like, this pair of black jeans has a zipper at the waist that looks like a belt.

What do you like about the design process?

That you have a say and an opinion on what you're doing. That you have so many options of fabrics and choices, it's like a candy store.

Is there anything about the process that surprised you?

Communication. You see something a certain way and hopefully the person you're explaining it to sees it the same way, so when they make the sample it's what you want. It was pretty easy because I'm so into the details of explaining how I wanted everything.

Do you explain mainly through words and feel, or did you sketch or write anything out?

Words and feel, I didn't sketch anything out. The first meeting in New York I came in with samples of fabrics that I was into at the time.

Where did you get the fabrics?

Old pieces of clothing that I had, a book bag, even accessories, like "this is the type of gunmetal."

You did a lot of skinnies, you have one flare. Are you more into skinnies?

Yes, I'm more of a skinnies girl.

When it comes to fall fashion, what are you looking forward to this season?

Probably layering, I mean I'm still practicing how to get that right all the time.

Fashion Month has just wrapped. How has the experience changed in the years you've been modeling, from your personal perspective as well as the industry at large?

Information is given to you so much more quickly, especially with social media. You see things happen as they're happening instead of having to wait out the secrecy. That's the biggest change to the industry.

Personally, the relationships I have within the industry have changed so much. In the beginning, it was you're an employer and I'm a model. After working with the same people so many times and traveling the world with them, there is this bond, this family connection.

Lightning round!

8am or 8pm?


Coffee or tea and how do you take it?

Probably a Frappuccino, super sweet, pure sugar.

North West or Blue Ivy?

Wait, what?

Jay-Z and Beyonce's baby or Kim and Kanye's baby?

Oh! Blue Ivy.

Instagram or Snapchat?


Dinner party or afterparty?