"I wanted to offer on-trend fashion at affordable prices. That's the bottom line," Union said in a telephone interview. She explained that frequently her friends, family and those who follow her on social media will ask her where she bought something, and it might be a coat that costs $5,000.
"In that moment you say the price, you're [a jerk]. There's got to be a way of creating fly, dope, on-trend, fashion-forward pieces for a much lower price, and that was my goal," she said. Once she realized she could do it and have the quality, "I just started running a little wild," said Union, who is married to Chicago Bulls basketball star Dwyane Wade.
Asked to describe her personal style, Union couldn't pinpoint a particular look, but rather talked about her eclectic taste. "I always describe my personal style as ever-evolving and changing. It depends on my mood. Some days I get up and I just want to rock joggers. Some days I get up and I'm all about a statement piece, and some days I want a beautiful sheath dress. I'm not one of those people you say 'boho chic.' My closet pretty much looks like Intermix. A little high, a little low and a little everything in between," Union said.
New York & Co. gave her free rein to design whatever she chose. "The direction was 'we want what you think is amazing.' Usually when people come to you offering deals, they give you a short leash. Not with New York & Co. They said, 'We want you to offer something that people might not expect and we've never seen before.' I've really taken that challenge and run with it," she said.
The first apparel collection was inspired by her character on "Being Mary Jane," where she plays a news anchor.
"She's a fierce leader, she loves a statement piece, she brings a lot of flair to the workplace," Union said. "I wanted that leadership element of my character to jump out. You see a lot of great sheath dresses in materials that are incredibly flattering and helpful. In my own life, I'll say to my stylist, 'This material is fighting me and it's winning,'" she said. A lot of the fabrics she uses have stretch, "but with stretch that doesn't have too much give. It will hold you in place."
Her collection has 51 stockkeeping units and seven will be online only. The first collection hits stores Aug. 16, and there will be a second wave to add freshness to the assortment that will be available Aug. 31. The next full collection will come out in October. Describing the multiyear deal, she said, "I wanted to make a commitment."
The first collection includes pants, suits, joggers, dresses and bodysuits. Union plans to add accessories down the road. "My goal is create the world's most perfect stretch pant. Eventually I'd love to do denim and intimates," she said.
Her goal is to offer variety to the consumer. For now, there are dresses, jumpsuits, "everything I try to rock in my personal life that can be flattering for all different body types." There are cutouts that won't accentuate anyone's problem areas, she said. "The goal is every outfit is Instagrammable," she added.
Everything retails for under $100 except for the outerwear. For example, dresses retail from $74.95 to $79.95, jumpsuits are $89.95, separates are $46.95 to $69.95 and jackets/outerwear retail from $89.95 to $139.95. All of the fabrics have properties that hold its shape and enhance curves, including all proprietary brocades and embroideries. The collection includes novelty jacquard knits and crepe suiting. Sizes range from 0-20 and XS to XXL.
The label is called Gabrielle Union. "We wanted to create a tag that was classy, understated and clear," she said. The collection will have a separate area on the selling floor at New York & Co. "And the hope that it will be in the on-trend area of the store," she said.
Union first became a brand ambassador for New York & Co.'s 7th Avenue Design Studio line in April, when she became the face of that collection. She will continue to appear in many campaigns for both 7th Avenue and her namesake collection.
Norman Jean Roy shot the Gabrielle Union Collection campaign in New York in June. Ads will appear in Glamour, in-store and online, as well as New York & Co.'s social media and Union's personal channel.
Union said she plans to do personal appearances at the store, and expects to promote the collection while she is promoting her other lines, such as her Flawless hair products and her new book that comes out Oct. 17 called "We're Going to Need More Wine."