Our History
1968 - 2018

 

Two people set out together.

He, a creative guy from the East Coast, who was hitchhiking through California in 1963. She, a young Californian in a VW Beatle, driving to her holiday job. Their names: Doug Tompkins and Susie Russell. Their mutual way starts on Route 89 at Emerald Bay – and has lasted longer than both of them might have thought at the moment they met: three months later, they are married. Another five years later, they found a company that goes on to write fashion history: Esprit.

In the beginning Esprit was just an idea that had to learn how to walk.

Doug TomkinsEsprit founder

1968

Creation of a brand

History - A Designer Stays Stubborn

Esprit is fearless. Which is why I wanted to work for them.

John CasadoArt Director

A designer stays stubborn.

With their passion for fashion, seemingly endless energy and a strongly-characterised familial spirit, the two run their company under the name of "Esprit de Corp". However, at some point, Susie and Doug find that "Esprit" alone is simply better! However, something is still missing, though: the matching lettering. This is to be designed by John Casado, one of the most talented art directors of his time. His first idea is very unusual – and doesn't succeed at convincing Doug.

John is asked to provide new suggestions. However, what he presents one month later is – exactly the same logo! This tenacity impresses Doug – which is why he gives the go-ahead for the well-known, bold letters in radiant colours. These later on become known throughout the world and continue to characterise Esprit to this very day.

1960–1980

The Spirit of the time

History - A Label Points The Way

We were kids of the sixties and really took responsibility for what we created.

Susie Tomkins BuellFounder of Esprit

A label points the way.

Love, peace & harmony! Also as a company, Susie and Doug are completely dedicated to the ideals of the flowerpower generation. Responsibility for their employees, social concerns and environmental questions are not just important in theory but are also lived in practice. An example: long before "Eco Fashion" becomes fashionable, they find a supplier of organic cotton and, then and there, produce the Esprit “ecollection”.

History - We Are All Kids Of The 60s

1980s

Oliviero Toscani for Esprit

A photographer takes great leaps.

Esprit is colorful and lively, close to home and authentic – and characterised by the Californian way of life. An Italian photographer – Oliviero Toscani – succeeds at reflecting this in a unique manner. His images are full of joie de vivre and spontaneity. People jumping in the air is standard today but was an absolute novelty back then. Yet this perfectly matched the brand philosophy: “Esprit is an attitude, not an age.”

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The Real People Campaign

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Don't we all look great?

Doug TomkinsEsprit founder

Employees become a talking point.

Why actually always advertise with models? The employees at Esprit play an important role right from the beginning – and now they even are the faces of the advertisements. Instead of perfect beauties, Esprit presents people the way they are. Together with personal and frequently humourous statements. This turns the advertisement itself into an image-characterising statement: Esprit is different, closer, more authentic.

The "Real People Campaign" was the start of a new way of communicating. Esprit is in search of dialogue; it involves people – and takes a stand. A principle Esprit has remained true to to this very day.

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If it’s not inspiring it’s not Esprit

Naturally, the look is of great importance for Esprit – but this doesn't only apply for the styles. It applies for everything the brand represents toward the outside world. Be it the shoe box or the shop display, packaging or price tag – every detail is presented in an inspiring, colorful and upbeat design. A unique appearance that every customer recognises immediately – and really makes the vibrant, creative image of the brand tangible, in the truest sense of the word.

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A brand gets colorful.

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In-Store Revolution

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A shop becomes a statement.

Business as usual is not Esprit‘s thing – also not when it comes to the design of the stores. With the architect Ettore Sottsass, Esprit has the partner at its side who has designed a revolutionary concept. He is bold and light-heartedly plays with forms, colours and materials – and in the process creates a completely novel shopping experience. Which is why, all of a sudden, you do not only find fashion fans in Esprit stores but also fans of architecture.

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1990s

Real People Campaign 2.0

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A campaign brings about movement.

Times are changing – but this is not the case with Susie's and Doug's commitment to social matters. One example of this would the "What would you do?“-campaign be that draws attention to the topic of HIV prevention. Needless to say, real people have their say again – Esprit customers, Esprit employees but also VIPs like the actress Gwyneth Paltrow.

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Concious fashion

Fashion meets consciousness.

Advertising campaigns, donations and the support of non-profit organisations is a good start. But never enough. This is what Esprit believes – and for this reason it has increased its endeavours to bring about a positive change: social and ecological aspects are concrete decision-making criteria in daily business and are officially verified.

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Architectural evolution

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A style ahead of its time.

While Ettore Sottsass represents the playful-crazy elements, names such as Antonio Citterio or Aldo Cibis represent the new Esprit design concept. Clear lines, natural materials and plenty of light turn the stores in Amsterdam, Antwerp, Milan or Paris into trailblazers for industrial and urban architecture.

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2000s

Esprit goes red

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A brand takes a stand.

Esprit takes courageous decisions. And goes the whole nine yards. This is demonstrated impressively with the new corporate design, which consistently distances itself from the vibrant play of colours – and from now on only uses one colour: red! The Esprit red becomes the overall trademark. This is the dominating element for both the inside and the outside of the shop, subtly complemented by airy colours.

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Advertising in red

Logo in red.

The advertising has also been given "a fresh coat of paint", as it were, overnight. In its well-known, characteristic form, the Esprit logo now shines in the fresh corporate colour and characterises the clear look of advertisements, posters and films.

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2010s

Gisele Bündchen & Christy Turlington

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Two women lead the way.

Confidence, strength and the will to think for oneself – this is what Gisele Bündchen and Christy Turlington stand for. And as such, they are the ideal personalities to represent the multifaceted Esprit worldwide. While Gisele embodies the stylish, cosmopolitan side of the brand, Christy combines fashion with Esprit’s original “natural way of life".

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Lighthouse concept

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Naturalness enters the scene.

Make yourself at home – this could almost be the motto for the new store concept. Brick walls, free-standing furniture, real wood and, most importantly, plenty of light give the stores a loft-like atmosphere. Still to be added to this, great attention is paid to details, that invite customers to come in, make a discovery and feel right at home.

 

Product collaborations

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Students are catching on.

What does sustainable clothing of tomorrow look like? Which innovations characterise fashion 3.0? These and more inquisitive questions were asked by Esprit young designers of the Royal Collage of Art in London. During the two-year cooperation, Esprit could gain exciting insights – and support young talents on their path forward.

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A farm cares about sheep.

Good opportunities should be seized – and Esprit did just this when the chance presented itself to cooperate with the Gostwyck Farm in Australia. This is because, on the one hand, first-class wool is obtained here – and, on the other, animal well-being and the greatest possible degree of environmental protection is very important. The result: a small but high-quality wool collection that makes both customers and sheep happy.

Curiosity is a driving force, releasing creative energy and promoting innovation.

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2015-2017

Real people campaign 3.0

A hashtag makes a career.

#ImPerfect: a single word – or three words after all? – characterises the new campaign. It is a play of words with "Perfection & Imperfection", where, first and foremost, everything revolves around one topic: the individual personality. Authentic characters, real guys and freedom of expression is what characterises the campaign – and in the process, this is also reminiscent of the appearance during the founding years of Esprit.

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#ImEsprit takes a stand.

Welcome to 2017 – and to #ImEsprit. Behind this are, once again, the original core values of Esprit – freedom, love, courage and future. Things that every person carries within him – or herself in a unique manner. The campaign inspires people to show themselves – and simply to dress the way they are, the way they could be or the way they would like to be.

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Because when you feel good, you look good.

Susie Tomkins BuellFounder of Esprit

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Heritage capsule

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A collaboration makes waves.

Nothing brings people together more than the same background – and the love of exceptional styles. Which is why, it was only a question of time until Opening Ceremony and Esprit would launch a mutual collection. In September 2016 the time had come: The OCxEsprit Heritage Collection is launched! The look is inspired by Esprits Californian roots – and the integrated spirit of the 80s is reminiscent of the own New Wave era. Or, to use the words of the founders of Opening Ceremony, Carol Lim and Humberto Leon: "We grew up with Esprit, and we have now re-interpreted the original essentials of back then – to inspire the modern generation for Esprit in the same way."

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More to come ...