Jews of Philly Fashion: Gigi Kitei and Liz Cook

From left: Liz Cook and Gigi Kitei, co-founders of Free Reign | Courtesy of Carly Abbott Photography

It’s the newest edition of Jews of Philly Fashion, introducing you to the Chosen few who dress our city. They might mix wool and linen, but they’ve got some strong opinions on mixing stripes with florals. In this space, we’ll talk to designers, sellers, buyers, influencers, models and more. This week, we spoke to Gigi Kitei and Liz Cook.

It all goes back to the courts and fields of Lower Merion. That’s the way Gigi Kitei and Liz Cook see it, anyway, explaining their most recent collaboration — a new women’s activewear line called Free Reign, launching in September — as a grown-up version of much earlier partnerships in tennis, basketball and softball. Both women graduated from Lower Merion High School, and though they live in different places now (Cook in Takoma Park, Maryland and Kitei outside Philadelphia), they’re still best friends, with a vision.

Free Reign raised more than $20,000 on Kickstarter this summer on the strength of just one product idea: the Everyday Tank. The versatile tank top, with a comfortable inner bra, comes in black and white, and is designed for A and B sizes. Whether for sport or Zoom calls, Kitei and Cook say, the Everyday Tank is a go-to for comfortable simplicity and functionality.

What clothing trend would you like to see make a comeback?
Both: We’d like to see a return to well-made, quality clothing and shoes where classic styles and longevity are valued over low-cost fast fashion and ubiquitous consumption. We’re thrilled to see the growth in recommerce business models — such as resale. We need to lighten pressure on our Earth’s resources if we want to continue to meet the needs of future generations.

What’s your go-to quarantine meal?
Cook: Anything I can make from a trip to the farmers market. The freshness and taste of locally grown and raised can’t be beat, and I love supporting small-scale farmers in my foodshed who are vital to our local economy.
Kitei: Buddha-bowls. I love combining leftovers and recreating a mix of new flavors and textures. Usually paired with an exotic and flavorful, ethnic dressing.

Who was the better tennis player at Lower Merion High School?
Cook: Definitely Gigi. She was a fierce and strategic singles player, traits that I love having in my business partner.

Kitei: Tie. We were great partners, teammates and competitors, then and now.

How would each of you describe your fashion sense?
Cook: In my professional and social life, it’s boutique all the way. I like investing in high-quality, unique pieces that feel great and get the odd compliment now and again. In my down time, comfortable active clothing is my uniform.

Kitei: Lover of elevated, comfortable loungewear which has become the new streetwear. Classic and comfortable clothing for every day and every where your day (and night) takes you.

What person’s style do you admire?
Kitei: Diane von Furstenberg. She created the iconic wrap-dress, easy dressing, a staple in women’s wardrobes, versatile, flattering and fits all body types.

What talent would you most like to have?
Cook: The practical side of me would love to lower my golf score. The dreamer says, make me a surfer. I’m a baby when it comes to big waves, and I’d love to conquer my fear and feel their power take me for a ride.

Kitei: That’s a tough one. Either musically or artistically talented. It would be wonderful to be able to express yourself through song and art. For now, I’ll continue to be a lover of the arts and let others do the creating.

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