Emerging fashion designer Stephanie Beard does not want to rip women off.
“Men have a different idea of shopping: they buy something and wear it for years,” she says. “I feel like the market has made women think differently — it’s more trend-driven, and it wants us to go out and buy more and more inexpensive stuff.”
So right out of the gate with Esby Apparel, Beard’s mission is to design American-made garments that are not only built to last, but season-less. They are the effortless kind of clothes actress Clemence Poesy would wear in all her chicly disheveled, French glory: a bit dreamy, if not a tad boyish, and never overdone.
The effect yields a versatile look and feel to the garments, making them equally as fitting for a warm weekend in Marfa as a cool night downtown.
Beard is particularly well-suited to help curb the consumption of fast-fashion and create a quality product owing to the decade she spent as a menswear designer at legendary fashion companies like Tommy Hilfiger, Levi’s and Converse. Experience aside, she also credits her Manhattan closet space — or lack thereof — as a huge point of motivation in starting her own venture.
“I always had small closets in New York and needed every piece to be really important. It was my well-made pieces that were a bit more expensive that stuck around and my H&M that got tossed. I wanted to get out of the mindset of shopping that way.”
Esby items range from $36 (bandanas) to $125 (tops) and $250 (dresses and tunics) and boast a simple but rich palette, heavy in black, beige, Ikat and an array of soft blues. “I have a huge love for Japanese workwear and Parisian fashion, so it made sense for me to use a lot of indigo,” she explains. “It’s such a neutral. Denim is not really going anywhere — ever.”
To help execute her vision of “a menswear mentality for women” is a small team of friends and former colleagues who double as artisans across the country, including a wash consultant who advised on the over-dyed method Beard has used for most of her collection. Whereas most clothing is sent to market unwashed, Esby pieces are dyed, washed and then cut, so they're soft to the touch and showcase a beautiful high-low color saturation. The effect yields a versatile look and feel to the garments, making them equally as fitting for a warm weekend in Marfa as a cool night downtown.
Despite its distance from traditional fashion industry epicenters, Beard is confident that Austin is the right place to debut Esby, especially having found a factory in New Orleans for production. She’s currently shopping the line to buyers New York City and Austin, and is indebted to the backers who invested in Esby on Kickstarter so quickly that she surpassed her goal within 48 hours of the campaign’s 30-day run.
“I’ve started ‘season two’ and want to be on a continuous calendar of development and production, which takes time as well as funding. I am so thankful to all contributors for helping Esby grow,” she says. “It’s a great feeling to imagine all that's possible. Ten years from now, I hope to have mastered well-made American clothing without sacrificing quality or aesthetic."
Ladies, better clear out that valuable space in your closet for staple pieces so modern, they're actually timeless.