Brand Story: The Story behind Free People
Within the fashion industry, it’s one of the highest trending movements in recent decades – second-hand, resale, thrift, pre-loved. Whatever term you want to use, its impact on our wardrobes and wallets cannot be denied. Heck, this trend has an entire MONTH named after it sporting its own hashtag - - Secondhand September (#secondhandseptember). Few of us can deny the impact the secondhand movement has had. In 2022, the global secondhand market reached $177 billion, while the U.S. resale market grew to $39 billion. The global secondhand market is set to nearly double by 2027, reaching $350 billion. That’s DOUBLING in size in just FIVE years! The global secondhand apparel market is expected to grow 3X faster on average than the global apparel market overall. Speak simple? OK – we’re buying secondhand clothing way more than new clothing. And we’re buying A LOT of it! Maybe because we’ve figured out that we can have more fashion for a much lower investment.
While you may be fully aware of all these stats and the importance of the secondhand market, you may not realize that one of your most coveted brands got its humble beginnings in resale. Ever had a college class project turn into a multi-million-dollar career path? Yeah, me neither. But that’s exactly what happened to Richard (Dick) Hayne at the University of Pennsylvania. As an entrepreneurial class project, he opened a small storefront in West Philadelphia selling plants, records, and secondhand clothing. Believe it or not, in 1970, that’s exactly how Free People was born. The store was a huge success due to the support from local residents and students. And after only one year Hayne opened a second store and renamed them Urban Outfitters. We’re assuming he got an A+ in that entrepreneurial class but what happened to free people? She was revived in 1984 as the company's wholesale label. What a wild ride, right? And here's the really interesting full circle— not only did Free People get its start secondhand. She's also one of the five top-selling resale brands in 2023! How cool is that?!
So, the next time you find yourself shopping your favorite free people styles on the resale racks— remember the A+ effort put into that college class project over 53 years ago in West Philadelphia. We've come a long way baby!
** Top 5 selling brands in the secondhand industry according to Thredup: Zara, Madewell, Free People, Lululemon &Torrid.