A Q&A with the Lead of Walmart’s New Modern Fashion Brand, Free Assembly
Sept. 21, 2020
By Denise Incandela, SVP Women’s Group, Elevated and Online Brands, Walmart
Today, we’re thrilled to announce that Walmart is launching Free Assembly, a modern fashion brand that offers elevated style essentials for both men and women at an incredible value. The new brand will be available starting today on Walmart.com and in select Walmart stores. Core to this new brand is its thoughtful and simple design approach to create timeless and versatile wardrobe staples that help customers pull together looks that are meant to last, season after season.
When we first started brainstorming the idea of creating the next modern apparel brand, there was no one more suited to lead building this brand than Dwight Fenton. An industry veteran with years of experience designing for well-known brands like Bonobos, J.Crew and Old Navy, Dwight had the experience and vision to turn this idea into reality.
I recently sat down with Dwight to talk about his passion for great design and timeless brands, and how those helped him develop his creative vision for Free Assembly. Here are the highlights of our conversation.
You have an impressive resume designing for many American fashion brands. What was it that excited you about joining the fashion team at Walmart?
Most recently, I was leading design at Bonobos, so I’ve had a front row seat to the transformation happening in Walmart’s fashion business. I’ve been really impressed with the aggressive strategy to diversify the product offering through new brand launches and strategic partnerships. There were some surprising moves – like reviving the iconic New York fashion brand Scoop, for example – that showed me that Walmart was serious about making fashion accessible to all.
When I was approached to join Free Assembly, I was intrigued by Walmart’s size and scale – it’s unlike any other place I’ve worked. The company’s reach is such a powerful platform for change. And, I was excited about the opportunity to bring a new brand to market through a different lens for the Walmart customer, all while holding true to style and quality at an accessible price point. This all added up to a meaningful opportunity that I couldn’t pass up.
What is the inspiration behind Free Assembly?
We designed Free Assembly to be a modern fashion essentials clothing brand. We wanted all of the pieces in the collection to feel familiar, but also new and appropriate for today. We wanted to design a brand that anyone could see themselves wearing. It’s approachable and features modern and timeless pieces – think denim, sweaters, blazers – that are staples of any wardrobe and can be worn for a long time, season after season. The pieces are key items for any closet and are not going out of style.
Free Assembly - Women's Button Down Shirtdress Large DotFree Assembly - Women's Button Down Shirtdress Large Dot
Free Assembly - Men's Vintage 2 Pocket Flannel Red PlaidFree Assembly - Men's Vintage 2 Pocket Flannel Red Plaid
Free Assembly - Women's Femme Ruffle Blouse Blue StripeFree Assembly - Women's Femme Ruffle Blouse Blue Stripe
Free Assembly - Men's Athletic Slim Fit Jeans Light WashFree Assembly - Men's Athletic Slim Fit Jeans Light Wash
Free Assembly - Women's Essential Exposed Button Front Slim Jean MediumFree Assembly - Women's Essential Exposed Button Front Slim Jean Medium
Free Assembly - Men's Camo Bomber Jacket CamoFree Assembly - Men's Camo Bomber Jacket Camo
What was your role in creating Free Assembly?
I am responsible for leading our very talented in-house team in the design, production and merchandising of Free Assembly. We have a team of incredibly talented women’s and men’s designers, tech designers and product managers who are excited by Walmart’s ability to bring a cool, accessible, modern clothing brand to a broader customer base.
Every piece in this launch collection is the result of months of design work, from sketching designs and hand-picking fabrics from specific mills to finalizing details, like threading, buttons, trims and the fits and washes of every garment. Every piece in the collection was thoughtfully crafted. Being a part of this process was an incredibly powerful experience and a career highlight.
What makes Free Assembly standout from other American clothing brands?
There’s really nothing else like it on the market. We’ve created something familiar enough that anyone can see themselves in the clothing, but unique enough that it has a twist and is intriguing. And, when you consider the style and quality we’re offering for the price point, Free Assembly is truly unmatched in the industry. In fact, I don’t think there’s been a great new modern brand offering this level of quality for such incredible prices – and at this scale – since the mid-1990s.
How do you think Free Assembly complements the other brands in Walmart’s fashion portfolio?
We’re committed to making Walmart a fashion destination – no matter the customer’s style or budget. The company has been focused on meeting that need for customers by launching new elevated fashion brands, whether that’s a denim-focused brand like Sofia Jeans by Sofia Vergara or more fashion-forward pieces that can be found in Scoop. What’s been missing is a brand that offers modern essentials. So, we set out to build that brand. Free Assembly rounds out our portfolio to offer customers something they didn’t have before – elevated, modern essentials for both men and women at incredible prices.
I like to think of it as a new, iconic brand in the making.
What are the key pieces from the launch collection that you think every man and woman should have in their closet this Fall?
You honestly can’t go wrong with anything in the collection, because they’re all meant to be pieces that will quickly become closet staples. If I had to pick my favorite five items for fall, for men, I’d go with the Selvedge Slim Fit Jeans. They’re just $40 and made from selvedge denim, which is just an incredible price point. I also love the Two-pocket Flannel Shirt ($30), the Carpenter Pants ($30), our Everyday Short Sleeve Tee ($9) and the Quilted Bomber Jacket ($45).
For women, the Boyfriend Blazer has incredible structure for the $45 price point – I haven’t seen anything like it on the market. It has the perfect amount of stretch and has features typically only found on high-end tailored pieces. I also recommend the Short Sleeve Puff-sleeved Top ($22), Tiered Maxi Dress ($39), Boxy Crewneck Sweater ($22) and the Original 90s Straight Leg Jean ($27).
You can see how a customer can create a complete head-to-toe look by mixing and matching items from just these few pieces I’ve mentioned from the collection, and there is so much more.