TORONTO — When Ashley Freeborn and her mother Teresa Freeborn cofounded the Vancouver design brand Smash + Tess in 2014 they began what they call a “romper revolution.”
“People ask us if we are ath-leisurewear or loungewear, but what we have created is a new category of ‘everywear’ clothing, which we began by reimagining the romper and ensuring that women of all shapes and sizes could wear it well,” said Ashley Freeborn, the company’s managing director.
“They can wear this romper in bed, in the boardroom or on a plane without ever sacrificing style for comfort. But it’s not Victoria Secret. It’s easy dressing for busy women that takes them from the sheets to the streets and beyond,” Freeborn added.
Now the Canadian label — which has been spotted on Hilary Duff, Selma Blair, Kristen Bell and Jenna Dewan — has partnered with award-winning American journalist, author and reality TV celebrity Carole Radziwill to create a collection of size-inclusive basics that reflect both the brand’s “real-life” ethos and the style of the “Real Housewives of New York City” star.
Launching worldwide Jan. 15, the Carole Radziwill x Smash + Tess Collection brings a distinctive New York vibe to its sustainably crafted lineup, which includes a romper, duster, top and pants done in camel and marine navy. Priced between 75 and 129 Canadian dollars, items will be sold at similar prices in the U.S.
Sizes also range from P-XXS, XXS to XXL.
“I live in these rompers, particularly with the dropped waist. It’s a little more fashion forward,” said Radziwill, who discovered Smash + Tess last June via Instagram. “I was Instagramming during a ski weekend when Ashley reached out to me. When I started posting, my niece called to tell me that she loved this brand and had the whole collection.”
That’s when Radziwill became intrigued by the idea that both she and her 30-year-old niece could wear these basics despite their different shapes and sizes.
“I’m an extra small. My niece is larger than I am, but the sizing offered here is inclusive. That was important to me,” Radziwill said. “I also liked that this was a company run by women for women.”
Starting in July, Radziwill and Freeborn collaborated remotely to bring the collection to life. “I was particular about the fabric and wanted to do something different. We settled on a ribbed jersey, which hangs well on a dropped waist,” Radziwill said.
Other details were also fine-tuned, including lining the front pockets to ensure no bunching at the hips.
“Carole knew what she wanted. She takes risks with her fashion,” Freeborn said.
Taking chances is nothing new to Radziwill, who came to New York City in the mid-Eighties as a twentysomething to intern at ABC.
“My pay in 1989 was $11,500,” said Radziwill, who would pass the storefronts across from her office like Tahari and Ann Taylor and think, “Someday I’m going to own a Tahari jacket.”
Radziwill eventually worked as a producer for Peter Jennings, earning several awards for her efforts, including three Emmys and a Peabody. In 1994, she wed ABC News producer Anthony Radziwill, the only son of Prince Stanislaw Radziwill and his wife, Caroline Lee Bouvier.
“My mother-in-law always said that style was a way of life,” Radziwill recalled. “It’s there in your home — your clothes — but you wear what you feel good in.”
After losing her husband to cancer in 1999, Radziwill left ABC News to write the 2005 New York Times bestseller, “What Remains: A Memoir of Fate, Friendship and Love,” which looked back at the couple’s journey through illness.
That success was followed by the 2014 release of Radziwill’s first novel, “The Widow’s Guide to Sex & Dating,” as well as her reality TV debut in 2011.
“I never expected to be on this show for six seasons — more like two — but it’s like the Mafia,” Radziwill said wryly. “Once you’re in you can’t get out.”
With no plans for a second collaboration at this time, Freeborn’s attitude is “never say never.”
As for Radziwill, “I don’t know if this is the beginning of a fashion career, but the fashion industry has changed so much. Now it’s all about direct-to-consumer. You get to understand your consumer very well.”
Indeed, direct-to-consumer — not flagships — will be Smash + Tess’ focus in the future.
“Today’s consumers are deciding what they want and when they want it. Everything is in their hands,” said Freeborn, whose line is available in 200 retailers across Canada and gaining traction in Australia and the U.K.
“Direct-to-consumer is where we’ll be growing and working toward world domination one romper at a time.”