Free People is the latest fashion lifestyle brand to stake a claim in the trendy-but-crowded activewear market. But the launch this month of its FP Movement collection begs the question: Is Free People serious about women’s fitness, or just helping them look good?
The boho cousin of Urban Outfitters covers a lot of ground in its ambitious FP Movement range, a grab-bag of apparel and accessories organized into three ‘shops’ or categories — ballet, yoga and surfing.
At first glance, that might seem like a random grouping, but all three activities are consistent with Free People‘s tribal approach to fashion for twenty-somethings: they’re expressive, individualistic endeavors supported by communities of like-minded devotees, and best performed by youthful, limber bodies. They’re also very style-driven activities that lend themselves to the kind of colorful, layered ensembles that are Free People‘s signature.
The result here is a collection that will appeal less to the peak performance crowd than the faux fitness tribe — those fashionistas who want to share in the sportswear style revolution without, you know, having to work up much of a sweat.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of useful pieces here. Many items in the big FP Movement catalogue (specifically, the leggings, leotards and yoga bras) would be welcome at your next low-impact workout.
But others are meant for show only. For example, the Giselle wrap and skirted Pirouette sweatpants (above) look fabulous, but you won’t see too many of them in barre class — there’s just too much going on in these pieces to make them practical.
At times it seems like it’s not so much a fitness-driven lifestyle being promoted here as a fantasy version of one. Why else would you need a lace “dance shrug” or the beautiful but slightly ridiculous long-legged stretch lace romper?
This problem is most obvious in the ballet offerings. The FP Movement lookbook includes numerous images of dance models en pointe or working on their jeté, and lots of closeups of ballet shoes. But, significantly, the collection includes two ballet shoe options, neither of which is suitable for actual use. Instead, you get a hand-crafted ballet-inspired slipper that comes with a warning to NOT use it for actual dancing (!), and some really lovely hand-painted vintage shoes (above) that are only meant to hang on a wall.
Free People says its Movement line was “inspired by movement of all kinds”, but it notably excludes running, tennis, cycling, crossfit, beach volleyball and just about every other kind of high-output fitness activity imaginable. That’s because it’s not really a performance athletics line, but a fashion collection for active young dreamers. You won’t find a pair of high-end running shoes in this collection, but you can buy a designer surfboard bag to go along with your $3,000 custom Free People surfboard.
There’s nothing wrong with Free People‘s approach, as long as consumers know what they’re really buying. These days, a lot of fashion brands are piggybacking on the fashion activewear movement by offering cheaper goods that look great but can’t take the punishment of a serious workout.
For its part, Free People is trying to find a middle ground between fashion and physical activity, while leaving the serious performance gear to other brands.
Best Bets: The yoga line is the best part of this collection, so try the Geo Insert yoga shorts ($48) or Hatha crop leggings ($78).