After venturing across the nation with 770 retails stores worldwide, Esprit de Corp is returning to its Southern Californian roots with a new location on Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica. Where better to launch the lifestyle brand known for fresh colors, sporty designs and a white-hot image? Young adults who wore Esprit in their teens can harken back to their youth with the brand making a big comeback.
Held on a balmy Thursday evening, the invite-only event marked the glorious homecoming of Esprit. Special guests Nicole Richie and Joel Madden made a welcome appearance, proving to be a celebrity couple whose own style expresses what Esprit stands for. Dressed in casual denim and a long fitted skirt with stylish heels, Nicole’s fashion sensibility fits right into the updated Esprit line, a fusion of sleek and sporty classics. Joel’s black and white ensemble was smart and hip – his pairing of a modish black cardigan with artfully frayed jeans looked anything but basic. Ten percent of proceeds from purchases made at Esprit Santa Monica and during the night’s event will be donated to the Richie-Madden Children’s Foundation. Other guests who walked the Esprit red carpet were Michael Johns, Julia Voth, Amber Borycki, Casey Reinhardt and Christian Oliver.
Esprit founders, Susie and Doug Tompkins, met while hitchhiking in California and in the bloom of young love and a trusty Volkswagen, the company started with their awe-inspiring ideals. The pair have since incorporated their concerns for the environment, AIDS awareness and humanitarian causes into the brand’s iconic image. Established in the 70s, the internationally renowned red & white label gained huge popularity and peaked in sales during the 80s. The clothing catered to trendy preteens and high school kids who took pride in up-to-date fashions. Any girl who remembers Esprit fondly, carrying the essential book bag to class or sporting the monogrammed “E” on her left shirt pocket, can look forward to modern versions of the still wildly popular brand. With the store’s launching after a decade long absence on the West Coast, fans and trendsetters are in for a real treat. Esprit delivers twelve assortments of men and women’s apparel per year on a monthly basis. Customers will always find something new and different to wear in timeless styles.
Honoring the creators’ incredible destiny is the brand’s nationwide “How We Met” contest, which the April 2nd event kicked off successfully. Participants had their photo taken with their better halves against a white and red backdrop while telling their stories. The contest will run through April 23rd, encouraging best friends, spouses and soul mates to enter in hopes of winning roundtrip tickets to Paris, Barcelona or Berlin and sharing their “love” story with the world.
Enhancing the night’s posh atmosphere was the fine service by catering company, Bread & Wine. Delectable hors d’oeuvres were served in timely rounds by elegantly attired young ladies. Standouts on the menu were the sake beef wraps, miso glazed seared ahi, tiger shrimp with kefir lime chili sauce, endive leaves with goat cheese & port wine and fig mascarpone on flatbread crisps. The exclusive Espritini was the fete’s specialty cocktail, a concoction of premium silver tequila, watermelon syrup, lime juice, st. germaine, lemongrass & lemongrass stalk, served straight and tall. Also adding to the celebratory mood was DJ Ross One in the house, spinning urban underground beats in a private corner.
Esprit’s current collection is a fresh take on original designs. Windbreakers, tunics and blouses appeared in classic pastels while polos, button downs and hooded sweaters fashioned themselves after “Camp Esprit” where every employee wanted to live and work in the 80s. The embroidered tunics and tie dyed scarves took a cue from the American hippie look that popularized during Susie and Doug’s early designing days. Now that their customers have grown up, the line has extended with more contemporary coordinates suitable for young working professionals. V-neck sweaters for both men and women are offered in a range of colors that represent Esprit’s practical sense of style, notably easy-to-match browns, blacks and neutrals. Graphic t-shirts and zippered hoodies are casual street additions to the young men’s clothing line. Tunic dresses with smocked waistbands in 100% cotton and belted linen jackets provide stylish comfort to women with busy lifestyles.
Accessories have always been Esprit’s forte, incorporating Tompkins’ design philosophy of combining form and function. The new nylon tote with side zippers is no exception to his rule. Available in two tri-colored versions, the “Shopper” is designed with easy handling and ample space in mind. Unzipping the sides increases bag width without sacrificing its chic appearance. The lightweight water-proof fabric further enhances the look and performance of an otherwise standard carry-on bag. Tompkins credits the Esprit customer for having "above-average intelligence” and knowing the difference between substance and superficiality. Thick leather belts with braids, pageboy caps and multi-colored scarves completed the limited accessories selection on display.
Fuschia, referred to as “the Esprit red” by employees, colored everything from dresses to plaid to skinny jeans. The fashionable hue will continue to be seen on novel styles such as scrunched scarves, cropped cargo pants, fitted coats and shirtdresses. Denim is making a mark in the latest collections as well, with true-to-fit jackets and regular rise slim leg jeans in fuschia and indigo. Known for exhibiting youthful stripes, yellows and pinks, Esprit hasn’t turned its back on old school sensibilities and a growing cult following. The iconic American brand remains loyal to its definitive past, keeping with the trademark “World is our Culture” slogan and the youthful attitude that is determined by one’s spirit and not by age. Like the woman who wears it, Esprit exudes how you feel and all the things you believe in.
A fashion blogger recently mused, “ Esprit was one of the coolest name brands in the 80s. I remember if you could afford it, you were not only cool, but ultra-trendy too. I miss Esprit. What happened to it?” Much of Esprit’s celebratory status stems from memories of fashionable youth, when little girls dreamed of their future in rainbow stripes. Now they can dress to impress again, and the grown-up boys can join them.
Photos by Aimee Tang and John Shearer at Wire Image