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Trends and Attitudes That Shaped the Brand

Free People captures the natural, effortless look of the 60s and 70s in a contemporary setting for todays free-spirited, young woman. In order to truly understand the inspirations behind the fashion, we must take a glimpse at our American roots and explore the decadal fads of the United Kingdom. The combination of changing times, political attitudes and womens rights helped shape the lifestyle of the modern Free People Woman: the person she is, the life she grew out of and the historical trends that inspired her dedication to preserving femininity. The women of Free People, past and present, push boundaries and challenge archaic perceptions of how women should express themselves. In the mid-1960s, women began to experience a newly found freedom in both lifestyle and wardrobe choices, and their astonishingly bold fashion statements eventually led to the humble beginnings of the first Free People store. No longer were young women confined to skirts that reached well past the knees or traditional blouses that covered the chest. In a 2007 article titled In the service of femininity, scholar Cristina Nelson remarks that throughout history, societies across the universe have always coveted the gendered practice of shaping womens bodies 1970s-inspired Free People designs (http://bit.ly/W1kMw1) into culturally-accepted feminine silhouettes. The rest was formerly left to the imagination. 1970s fashions like those sold at Free People, however, shrunk drastically in size and allowed for more room to breathe. Both flowy and short spandex fashions were made possible by fabric and technological advances during World War II, and struggling college students knew Free People was the place to find such reckless styles (Nelson). The trends that survived into the 70s reflected this reworked image of female sexuality and a womans role in society. These women became canvases for cultural changea place to record feminine history; these women became the foundation for Free People as a brand.

The Free People women of the past finally had a say in their own fashion sense; they could choose whether or not to show skin or sport bold colors. With the arrival of the Cultural Revolution, any woman could boldly expose her skin and embrace her sexuality without having to answer to a conservative society. These women had the freedom to ditch their polite and fragile roots for a more risqu ensemble, but according to a Feb. 23, 2008 article in the Financial Times by Edwina Ings-Chambers, women could also choose to suddenly confuse men by covering [their] legs completely. For decades, daintiness had been synonymous with femininity; now, women could be provocative and feminine without showing a hint of skin as they ventured into the realm of mens fashion. Free People began to stock flared Levis, bottoms that had only ever graced the male bodies of railroad workers and coalmines. The fashion-forward women of the 70s embraced these hippy trousers along with billowing maxi dressesand chunky jewelry; she adorned herself with masculine V-neck pullovers and vibrantly colorful print tees (Ings-Chambers). According to an August 1997 article titled Anti- Fashion: The 1970s by Valerie Steele, this chaotic clash of style characterized both the fashion and societal culture of the time, ironically unifying each individual trying to rebel against the status quo. The impression of the past is timeless. The United States of Americawhether modern citizens lived it or simply read about itwill never forget the anti-war sentiments surrounding the Vietnam War, the musical rebellion of artists like Joan Baez and Bob Dylan or the cultural transformation of the environment that fueled the birth of Free People. It was a time that honored authenticity over conformists and encouraged gutsy expeditions. However, the US was not alone in the Free People movement. Across the pond, radical times in the United Kingdom inspired a different kind of free people. In the June 7, 2007 BBC News article titled Your 1970s: Music and fashion, residents of the UK who grew up in the U.K. during the 70s reminisce on the decade of strikes, electricity shortages and piles of rotting rubbish on the street. However, many of those who submitted narratives of their teenage years associate the time with the magical music and groundbreaking fashion. Rob Ellingworth says, To have been a responsible adult must have been a true nightmare, reminiscing on the long hair, the endless amounts of drugs and sex and listening to Zeppelin albums, Pink Floyd and Deep Purple's Machine Head. Susan Ridings of North Wales recalls, At school we used to turn the waistband of our skirts over to try and shorten the British model Twiggy (bit.ly/VNYMs1) length of the regulation knee-length, pleated skirt. The height of shoe heels were supposed to be two inches high only, but few people complied and platform boots and wedged heels were prevalent. Melanie Laing of Novara, Italy says, I remember the hot summers, low cut bell-bottoms and skinny tops For the young, it was a

time of great optimism; not least because working-class girls like me had their first chance to become someone. Together these memories unite the real free people who experienced the same revolutionary freedom of expression in the United Kingdom that brought Free People to the forefront of small businesses in America. By 1965, according to the article Fashion in 1960s London from the Victoria and Albert Museum website, small British boutiques were on the rise; Mary Quants Bazaar on Kings Road hosted cheap start-up boutiques with outlandish names and anarchic window displays. Carnaby Street boasted inexpensive Soho rag trade that closely followed fads and attitudes of the times, and shoppers were influenced by the likes of the Rolling Stones and the Sex Pistols, praising anarchy and self-expression (Victoria and Albert Museum). While anti-political messages were splayed across American storefronts in Philadelphia, the Brits took on their own version of fashion-driven social change with provocative print t-shirts and mini-dresses. Even Londons charming 1967 bohemia of Chelsea, Notting Hill and Kensington is hugely reflected in todays Free People designs. The American brand recently launched www.freepeople.co.uk as a tribute to such U.K. fashions and revolutions that contributed to the imaginative Free People vibe of the 70s. Surrounded by social change and influential causes, the real free people pushed boundaries and challenged stereotypes around the world. Young women needed outlets where they could purchase hip, rebellious clothing that ditched any sentimental feelings of the 1950s nuclear families and the Vietnam War of the 60s. These women, as well as the fashion industry, were turning a new leaf to enter a world of individualism, and Free People was precisely the outlet they were looking for. With the opening of the first Free People in 1970, founder Richard Hayne and co-founder Judy Wicks provided a place for women to find their own identity. They could be daring and bold or plain and simple. The choice was theirs to make. This is why Free People works for so many different identities; the brand allows customers the opportunity to adopt styles of a reckless, free-spirited decade. The kind of passion and romanticism that was alive in the 70s still lives in the fabric of the Free People clothing, allowing shoppers to jump into any persona they choose. Today, Free People still possesses the very same aura. The company website (www.freepeople.com/our-story/) aims to reach a 26-year-old girl, smart, creative, confident and comfortable in all aspects of her being, free and adventurous, sweet to tough to tomboy to romanticwho loves Donovan as much as she loves The Dears. This young woman is a product of those before hera woman of intelligence, creativity and courage, shaped by the wars and revolutions of her nations past. Whether an old soul or an indie sensation, Free People guarantees a little bit of history and fashion for every woman, from the US to the U.K. November 2012