On Thursday, January 22nd, I had the pleasure of touring the URBN headquarters at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, arranged by Fashion Group International Philadelphia. About 23 members and guests met up for the hour-long tour.
If you’re between the ages of 15-35 or know anyone who is, I’m sure you’re familiar with Urban Outfitters and its sister brands, Anthropologie and Free People. Image is everything! Each of the URBN brands has its own unique vibe that caters to a distinct market. There’s Free People for the young, bohemian girl; Urban Outfitters for the college student living away from home for the first time and Anthropologie for the out of college working girl with an eye for detail. URBN also owns two other companies: BHLDN for wedding gowns and accessories and Terrain, a garden and home decor brand.
With so many companies working under the URBN brand, there are also an enormous number of employees. Prior to 2006 all of the URBN companies and their corporate employees were dispersed throughout Philadelphia. As the company expanded the offices had to as well. Since URBN is home to such creative and innovative brands, it makes sense that their new offices would be far from traditional. The company decided to renovate dilapidated buildings in Philadelphia’s historic Navy Yard into their very own office buildings. Each of the company’s brands has its own building appropriately decorated to match their aesthetic and image- Free People’s building was my favorite. The URBN headquarters, or more fittingly, campus, has a central building where employees can grab lunch in the expansive cafeteria, workout in the gym, browse the magazine library or simply admire the koi fish pond. This happens to be the only building where employees can’t bring their dogs; all other buildings are pet friendly as long as your dog does not receive more than three demerits! Although all of the buildings were once rundown naval yard warehouses, the renovations to the buildings managed to keep a lot of their historic beauty while still transforming them into modern, artistic and functional office space.
The $100 million renovation was well worth it; it would be easy to mistake the buildings’ interiors for a modern museum or even one of the company’s own retail stores. The Free People building truly embodied the store’s aesthetic, the walls were lined with baskets from India and there was a large white couch covered in mismatched pillows that all happened to coordinate perfectly in a way that only Free People can pull off. Urban Outfitter’s building had a wall of vintage speakers playing music that relate to that week’s theme. The Anthropologie building which also houses BHLDN was the only one that did not have a separate main entrance, so we walked through the employees’ office area. The offices were more like large cubicles where small teams worked on projects. Although the employees were all hard at work, the environment seemed very relaxed and friendly. Hanging in the center of Anthropologie’s cross shaped building was a chandelier made out of recycled champagne bottles, suspended by rope to hint at the structure’s historic past. Another nice touch to the Anthropologie offices was the girl selling snacks out of a bike basket.
The URBN campus is somewhat of a hidden gem in Philadelphia, located away from all of the traditional office buildings. The tour was incredibly inspirational; I left with a newfound appreciation for finding the beauty in unlikely places, turning unusual objects into works of functional art and not to mention a ton of ideas to revamp my apartment.
Written by Laura Fragnito