Free People is a subsidiary of Urban Outfitters, Inc., but the story of the brand actually predates that of its parent company. Dick Hayne and his first wife, Judy Wicks, opened a clothing store called Free People in Philadelphia in the early 1970s. After almost immediate success, the duo opened a second store, but they changed the name to Urban Outfitters and began to grow the chain under that moniker. In the 1980s, Hayne's second wife, Meg, started to create the retailer's private label division. The designs she cultivated were so popular that the company decided to create a new wholesale brand that harkened back to the organization's original roots. The Free People clothing line went into production in 1984.
Though Free People made a splash in boutiques and department stores across the country, the team behind the brand decided to shift its image in 2001. Looking to shed the reputation as a juniors' line, Free People was rebranded as a contemporary collection of fashion-forward clothing for women in their 20s. Today, Free People has wholesale showrooms in Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago, and its apparel is sold in 1,400 stores around the world. It also operates a number of boutiques in carefully chosen markets throughout the U.S. and Canada.
As a bohemian lifestyle brand, Free People has created its own signature look, and the brand's unique fashion sense is applied to basically every major category of women's apparel. Dresses are divided into subcategories like day dresses, party dresses, night out dresses, and printed dresses. They are available in styles like shirt dresses, kaftans, rompers, maxi dresses, fit-and-flare dresses, bodycon dresses, and more. When it comes to tops, you'll find tees, tanks, camis, tunics, thermals, henleys, blouses, sweatshirts, pullovers, and crop tops. Outerwear options include sweaters, cardigans, leather jackets, suede jackets, vests, trench coats, blazers, and more.
The Free People denim shop features jeans, capris, and shorts in a number of different colors. The brand makes all the most popular fits--including skinny, relaxed, straight-leg, boyfriend, and flare jeans. It also differentiates between classic, printed, and distressed denim. Harem pants, leggings, trousers, utility pants, shorts, skorts, maxi skirts, mini skirts, and midi skirts make up the rest of the brand's bottoms. Intimates include bras, bralettes, panties, slips, sleep sets, robes, and nighties. Free People also has a swimwear collection that features bikinis, one-piece suits, athletic swimwear, surfwear, and more. Shoes are available in styles like clogs, boots, wedges, sneakers, sandals, espadrilles, moccasins, flats, and pumps. Accessories range from belts, hats, socks, and scarves to jewelry and handbags.
All of the brands owned by Urban Outfitters are popular for their cosmopolitan designs, but Free People combines the parent company's contemporary reputation with a bohemian look that sets the brand apart. The line of apparel looks like it could be sold at a small urban boutique, and it caters directly to independent free spirits who are looking to express their personality through their clothes. Free People does a great job targeting a very niche demographic--chic women in their twenties--but its relatively high prices do tend to exclude a certain sector of women who might otherwise be interested in the brand. Luckily, clothes are high-quality, and their departure from regular trends means they won't go out of style. We give Free People 4 stars out of 5.