THE FREE PEOPLE STORY
Free People was founded in the 1970 by Dick Hayne in West Philadelphia across the street from the University of Pennsylvania. The original store sold second-hand clothing, furniture, jewelry, and home goods for the college-aged crowd. A year later, as the store grew from one to two, Free People changed its name to Urban Outfitters.
Following the creation of Urban Outfitters’s private label, which was met with high demand, Dick and his wife Meg created a wholesale line to meet the needs of their customers. The wholesale line then became a subsidiary of Urban Outfitters and went by many names — bulldog, Ecote, Cooperative, and Anthropologie — before returning to their origin, Free People, in 1984.
At the turn of the millennium, Free People did some soul-searching. They shed their junior image and evolved into the feminine, boho brand known today. A clothing brand for wild-at-heart dreamers who live free through fashion, art, music, and travel.
The Free People girl is intelligent, creative and confident. According to URBN, Free People’s parent company: “She pushes the limits. She is a strong spirit, guided by the beat of her own drum. As feminine as she is cool. There is not another one like her,”
With their signature boho silhouettes and vintage-inspired details like — hand-stitched seams, romantic lace inserts, intricate embroidery, and posh fringe — Free People embodies the spirit of romance with a rock 'n' roll edge. The brand develops exclusive washes and distressing techniques to give their styles a modern feel. Their designs nod to past eras while always remaining fashion forward, creating clothes that are one-of-a-kind mix of the best of old and new world.
Drawing inspiration from five very different Free People girl personalities, the collections combine style elements of laid-back, flowy, fitted, ethereal, bold, and bright. Designed to make a statement, a Free People look is easily spotted in any crowd.
Free People’s retail presence is relatively young; opening their first store in 2002 in Paramus, N.J. and launching freepeople.com in 2004. Since opening their first store, Free People operates 136 free standing boutiques across the United States and Canada. Today, their wholesale line sells in more than 1,400 specialty stores worldwide and in all major department stores, such as Nordstrom, Macy’s, and Bloomingdale’s.
Their store designs embrace the history of a building and transform the existing spaces to reflect nature’s raw beauty with an emphasis on handmade furnishings. Layering old and new — reclaimed planked wood floors, painted brick, white washed bead board walls, and blackened steel elements mix with more feminine components, like shimmery coin curtains, dusty pink plaster, warm metal accents, and twinkle lights. All of the fixtures are handmade, even the crocheted hangers.
Within the last six years, Free People has evolved into more than a clothing brand. They took some time to really understand how the FP Girl lives her life and what she wants out of it. This exploration lead to the expansion of the Free People brand into the lifestyle sector with a mission to encourage self-confidence and self-expression.
Building on their core values of healthy living in all aspects: mind, body, and soul, Free People debuted their yoga line: FP Movement in June 2012. The line grew two years later to include a wider range of active lifestyle apparel including ballet and surf collections.
In May 2015, the brand launched their first bridal collection: FP Ever After. The following spring, Free People released a second bridal collection, City Bride. Currently, they haven’t release any new bridal collections.
Diving further into the lifestyle of the FP Girl, the brand added wellness retreats: FP Escapes, in March 2016 and entered the travel and wellness category. Each RP Escape includes accommodations, daily yoga, influential guides, a daily menu of customized healthy meals, and $250-$500 of Free People product.
Advancing their wellness venture, Free People launched their first beauty and wellness collection in July 2016. The collection consist of all-natural, cruelty-free skincare, cosmetics, haircare products, and wellness rituals (think all-natural condoms and chic body-safe silicone vibrators).
The brand offers a wide range of products from knits, sweaters, jackets, activewear, denim, day dresses, party dresses, to accessories, shoes (including vegan options) intimates, outerwear, home, and beauty – all reflecting a high level of quality and embodying Free People’s values of femininity, spirit, and creativity in design.
As Free People’s brand has evolved, so has their community initiatives and social responsibility. The brand strives to be environmentally conscious and eliminate single-use items, especially plastic.
Free People uses fabric shopping bags, LED lighting, and recycling in their stores. Since January 2015, URBN —which includes Free People, Anthropologie, and Urban Outfitters — recycled approximately 730.5 tons. URBN’s fulfillment center in Gap, Pa. is one of the largest single solar rooftop installations in the United States. Each year it saves 965 tons of carbon dioxide, 108,956 gallons of gas, and 24,212 trees. The brand also provides free helmets and lights to all home office employees who bike to work.
Take one look at Free People’s Instagram and it’s evident they loves dogs. Their affinity for dogs can be traced back to their Free People Pet Project in 2012. The brand created an eco-conscious, artisan pet gear line with 100 percent of proceeds from their vintage flag dog bed going to the Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society, Philadelphia's largest no-kill shelter.