By Sarah Linn
The Tribune (San Luis Obispo, Calif.)
In high school, classmates teased Quincy Freeman about her rodeo-inspired look: cowboy boots, colorful socks, hand-painted belts. She wore big, bold earrings and tucked red roses in her hair.
“Nobody ever thought I would make a career out of that unique style,” Freeman, 26, recalled.
Today, the Cal Poly graduate is an in-demand fashion designer whose fun, flirty looks have landed her collaborations with western wear giants Ariat International and Wrangler.
In addition to a thriving online business, her cute boots, embellished tops and fringed belts are carried in about 200 stores across the United States, including Boot Barn in Paso Robles and Riding Warehouse in San Luis Obispo.
“My brand is essentially a part of who I am and how I grew up,” said Freeman, whose Rodeo Quincy brand blends contemporary mainstream fashion with western flair.
The youngest of five children, Freeman grew up on a cattle ranch in Reedley in the Central Valley. Her father, Cal Poly grad Bill Freeman, started one of the first online livestock trading companies.
Quincy Freeman credits two women with helping shape her fashion sense — her grandmother, Rosita, an elegant ranch wife in red lipstick and high heels, and her mother, Sally, a “tougher than nails” cowgirl with a “real funky young style.”
“My mom always encouraged me to stand out and be proud,” said Freeman, who creates the designs. “She’s the first person I show a new design to …”
Freeman followed several family members to Cal Poly, where she majored in agricultural communication and captained the women’s rodeo team. (She’s the niece of Pro Rodeo Hall of Famer Joe Marvel.)
“I was just a rodeo kid trying to figure out what I was going to do,” Freeman said, when she signed on as a designer for Ariat, one of the world’s top manufacturers of equestrian apparel and accessories. The Quincy Collection of boots and clothing put Freeman, then 18, on the western wear map.
Despite that early success, Freeman still wasn’t sure a career in fashion was for her.
“I lacked confidence, really, in my skills and what I had learned,” she recalled. Then, encouraged by Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship co-founder Jonathan York, she competed in a series of elevator pitch competitions — going on to win the Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization’s national contest.
After her wins, “I thought to myself, ‘Well, I can’t let all those people down, so I have to start my own clothing business,'” Freeman recalled. She launched Rodeo Quincy in 2014, the same year she graduated from college.
Headquartered in Visalia, Rodeo Quincy employs five-full time employees. (Freeman declined to disclose the company’s annual revenue, but said, “We’ve done really well.”) The company’s products, which range from roses-and-rodeo T-shirts and tank tops to floral, fringed horse tack and coin-spangled dog collars, are manufactured in China, India, Mexico and the United States.
Freeman said Rodeo Quincy sales are split evenly between retail and wholesale. The company operates booths at four major events a year, including the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.
That’s where Rodeo Quincy caught the attention of the denim company. “Working with Wrangler was a dream come true,” said Freeman, a lifelong fan of the brand.
The first Wrangler by Rodeo Quincy clothing collection, aimed exclusively at women, was launched in December 2016. A second collection, which adds girls’ items, will be available this November.
According to Korie Lovette, Wrangler’s merchandise manager for western women’s apparel and other products, Freeman’s fresh fashion outlook lends youthful zest to a tried-and-true brand.
“She definitely has a great vision,” Lovette said, one that appeals to younger female consumers.
Embellished with embroidery, metal studs and screen-printed images of horseshoes and lasso-looping lasses, Wrangler by Rodeo Quincy clothing includes a fringed jean jacket, a long-sleeved denim dress and a turquoise shirt patterned with images of a pink-haired cowgirl riding bareback on a bison.
“Some of Quincy’s (designs) are definitely show pieces,” Lovette said. “They can be a great staple in a cowgirl’s wardrobe.”
Quincy said many of her designs reflect her Spanish heritage. “I grew up around lots of bright colors and flowers,” she explained.
She’s also influenced by the vintage cowgirl style of the 1920s, as well as current trends toward corduroy and patches.
“Each piece has a personal connection,” said Freeman, who names her designs after family members and close friends.
“Everything is thought through and has a meaning or purpose. … I think people connect to that.”