By  on April 6, 2007

As the ubiquitous tracksuit is phased out, Tao Freedom thinks it knows what will replace the active lifestyle mainstay.

Founded in 2003 as a capsule collection inspired by Pilates, Tao Freedom is being launched as a full lifestyle brand this fall, with about 30 pieces.

"Three years ago, fashion wasn't ready," said co-founder Clare Cook. "Everyone wanted hoodies and sweats. But today, there is a huge spa and wellness movement, which we saw coming."

Designer and co-founder Dorothy Szeto focuses on machine-washable, wrinkle-resistant, high-performance fabrics for versatile pieces that are designed to take wearers from the yoga studio to the plane to an evening out. All the items have Lycra, and some even have aloe vera, which softens the skin and lasts for up to 450 washes.

Most of the pieces, which wholesale for $28 for a basic top to $210 for cashmere items and come in sizes 2 to 22, drape and are versatile. They can be worn upside down or backward, and are "very playful," said Cook; hangtags illustrate how they can be worn.

"I'm designing for real women who are looking for clothes," said Szeto. "The clothes drape, so your figure comes out whether you are a size 2 or size 22, and it's flattering because it's asymmetric. This focuses on the woman who does everything — travels, works, exercises, has a full life."

Before starting Tao Freedom, Szeto was head of design for the plus-size firm Emme for three-and-a-half years. She and Cook, then a vice president of marketing at IMG, met as neighbors in New York and had the idea of creating their own line. Based in New York and Los Angeles, Tao Freedom has been carried at resorts such as the Four Seasons and was doing upward of $300,000 a year in wholesale volume. The partners project the new complete line, which will be carried at a wider range of specialty stores, will hit $1 million in annual wholesale volume this year.

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