In a fast fashion world, high-end women’s loungewear company Smash + Tess chooses to go at a slower pace. Ever heard of community-led design? It’s the exceptionally bright idea that guides this BC-based company’s process, and it just might shape the new future of fashion.
“The way the fashion industry works didn’t work for us: massive collections planned years in advance, ordered in excessive quantities and designed for one size,” explains co-founder, CEO -Ashley Freeborn. “So, we scrapped everything and did things our own way.”
What’s the Smash + Tess way? First, they design style-by-style on size-inclusive bodies. Next, they give sneak peeks of upcoming styles to their followers on social media, coining the term #SmashTessFam for their 320k+ audience. The #SmashTessFam shares real time comments, letting the company know what they’re really loving. That feedback informs what Smash + Tess ends up making and in what quantities.
“We’re slowing down the whole process to make thoughtful decisions, so nothing gets wasted.”
In fact, thoughtful decisions have always factored into the Smash + Tess story. Six years ago, mother and daughter team Teresa (i.e., Tess) and Ashley (i.e., Smash) Freeborn saw an unfulfilled niche in fashion, and particularly in the loungewear market. They were thinking big: why create a mere fashion brand, when you can create a community and a lifestyle? They knew this community would share one of their core values: responsibility.
“For us, responsibility means we give back to the community that has helped grow and sustain us, whether that’s through charitable donations or using our platform to amplify voices that otherwise struggle to be heard. We also consider our impact on the Earth, so we do small-batch production and made-to-order. We can confidently say every style is made well and made to last because we’re so close to everything we create— it’s a difference our community feels.”
Smash + Tess’s first big breakthrough, after a stint of designing comfortable PJs and loungewear, was the Sunday Romper. It took off fast, sparking a #RomperRevolution that launched over a thousand cute posts and created a fun phenomenon for their brand fans to rally around.
Building up the company through collaborations with media personalities like Jillian Harris, Smash + Tess kept the momentum going. So far, it’s taken the company all the way to a collection with Paula Abdul. The pop star and former American Idol judge helped the team design their functional and adorable Paula Abdul for S+T line of loungewear.
“It’s been a ‘pinch me, I’m dreaming’ experience. I remember dancing along to her iconic music videos growing up and it was such a treat to collaborate with the queen of dance.”
Collaboration has also been key to building Smash + Tess’s crucially important e-commerce channel. For example, they reached out to Great Little Box Company/Ideon Packaging (GLBC) to create PR boxes for their collaborations with the Barbie™ and Star Wars™ brands. The idea was to create a unique and memorable unboxing experience for influencers receiving gifting that managed to be on-brand for all the names involved and encouraged social sharing and word-of-mouth marketing. And that’s just what happened.
“Great Little Box really helped us bring our vision to life. The response to these boxes has been overwhelmingly positive and we’ve received a lot of great feedback from our partners who were really excited to get their hands on these limited-edition items.”
Smash + Tess have overcome serious challenges, including pandemic-related supply chain disruptions and severe flooding that caused “a logistics nightmare”. Time and again, they bounce back from these episodes with creativity and commitment. That’s because what they do inspires them.
“Smash + Tess is more than a clothing company—it’s a mindset that empowers women to live big lives with ease and confidence. We’re women-owned and operated from day one, so we’re in the thick of it with our community—pursuing big dreams while managing full-on family lives and everything in between.”
We say, keep on dreaming those big dreams! And whenever those dreams need to be translated into packaging, we’re on board in a big way.