Though its tassel–toting tees and bright peasant skirts scream indie, Free People — a chain from the Urban Outfitters fam — is not exactly not mainstream. The decor at the brand’s new flagship store at 17th and Walnut, however, is worth a visit if you find yourself in Rittenhouse. Plus, the clothing line, begun in the 70s, is native to Philly.
Opened a few weeks ago, the store is curated as if it were a gallery, with space sufficient and simple enough to exhibit its more embellished pieces. Clothes — like the aforementioned tops and skirts, plus this season’s lace–laden sundresses and cutoff shorts — are for the most part on the first floor, with lingerie and loungewear upstairs by the dressing rooms. The latter two are, by the way, the store’s most noteworthy elements. Each dressing room is designed by an artist at Free People’s Home Office (located at the Philly Naval Yard); folksy doodles adorn whitewashed walls shuttered by colorful curtains.
Folk art — or art that is modeled after it — is featured on the downstairs walls as well, and it too is for sale (most of it is in the $50 to $150 range). Other adornments have been imported from India, which, though cool and exotic–looking, are not so unusual.
I tried on two pairs of wide leg jeans and two tops and left with one piece — a long–sleeved blue and white tie–dyed tee with wide, hippie sleeves. The jeans fit nicely, but were nothing special — midway between mass–produced (like American Eagle) and designer (like MiH). The second top (the one I decided against) was a cropped suede shift–like piece, with scalloped edges and tiny cutouts at the borders. It was pretty enough, but the $228 price tag and my past experience with less–than–well–tailored Free People pieces killed the deal.
In sum, the new Free People store is a good idea, but it's filled with the same stuff you’d find anywhere else, and it's just as overpriced as its peers. If this merchandise is what you’re looking for, though, the experience at the Walnut St. outpost is preferable to digging through department store racks and can be followed by a turn at Urban, which is just next door.
FREE PEOPLE 1725 Walnut St. freepeople.com What you'll find here: Expensive clothes for wannabe hippie chicks Bottom line: May as well go to Urban