Esprit: Growing up, it was among the first brands that I longed for. Only the cool (preppy) kids wore Esprit, while I was wearing Grandma’s handmade stuff. And this is not to knock Grandma Simpson, for she had serious talent for memorizing and copying whatever it was that I so desperately wanted from the fancy department stores. On top of it all, Grandma made me dresses in the colors and fabrics that I picked out at the fabric store. God was I spoiled. I was wearing ‘couture’ and longing for off-the-rack pret-a-porter?
Only recently did I learn that the founders of Esprit were of the first to push for fashion that wouldn’t harm the environment. It was the late 1980s and they, Doug and Susie Tompkins, began researching the use of organic fabrics, recycled wool, low-impact dyes. So my yearning for Esprit was actually an unconscious wish for conscious fashion?
It was the first brand where its name was plastered on the front of everything, turning a generic oversized pink sweatshirt into a coveted Esprit one. Esprit represented well-being. The font was light and airy. It’s a brand so in a rush to get to the ‘sprit’ that the uppercased E is missing its starting line! The sherbet colors appealed to me like cotton candy before and after the rollercoaster. There was nothing serious about it. Looking at the ads now, I try to figure out the Esprit aesthetic, the whimsical leg kick in the air, the group photos of pretty ‘normal’ shiny, happy people having fun standing around in empty rooms. And it is with pride in retrospect that somehow what I yearned for tapped into a potentially good thing. The owners of Esprit were pushing for the Fashion Revolution avant le lettre, for an ethos, for the mood that prevails today in websites such as thewearness. Unfortunately, Esprit was sold to investors, and slowly but surely the fast-fashion company had its environmental energies nipped in the bud. (Read more in detail about that five-year endeavor here) The company might have become something really BIG and might not struggle as it does today if it were to have remain committed to the pioneering spirit of Doug (whose activist energies led to creating a protected national park in Chile with his second wife, of the pioneering brand Patagonia) and Susie (the fashion designer who went on to become an Democratic party supporter extraordinaire).
Change is in the air – this much is certain – and the awareness of thewearness is something that I am grateful for, especially as shopper who wants desperately to tame her hedonist energies. Looking to old Esprit ads, which one finds aplenty on pinterest, I’ve tried to find outfits that I would have pined for as a potentially (unconsciously) conscious shopper at age 10. Did you want any of these? Tell me in the comments!
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