Christopher Esber vividly remembers the day Emily Ratajkowski first requested an Esber look. He was busy showing her collection to buyers and media in Paris when the call came. In an instant, he tore his gaze from the railing and scanned the streets of Paris.
“There were crazy time requests,” he recalls GRAZIA. “I had to go to the next district, I couldn’t get an Uber, to take this dress to a janitor for Emily.”
It was a moment that launched his brand into the international zeitgeist, one he says he didn’t realize would be so moving until it happened. While it was never the designer’s plan to dress the ‘It Girls’ and celebrities, women around the world, including People Of Note, have fallen in love with Esber’s inimitable talent, unique tailoring and deconstructive approach.
Nominated for Designer of the Year at the 15th Annual Australian Fashion Laureate Awards, we caught up with Esber to talk about expanding the brand, how it develops and evolves each collection, and why it’s always worth taking those impromptu opportunities in life. it’s.
GRAZIA: A few years ago, you cleverly made international expansion of your company a key priority, and we saw you join the Net-A-Porter roster in 2020. These past two years, though, we’ve really seen Christopher Esber take a stronghold on the international market of “It Girl” and, therefore, on the consumer. Was that always the plan?
CHRISTOPHER ESBER: No, actually it wasn’t. I was always kind of ‘anti-celebrity’. For me, it was more about seeing it on the actual girl on the street or at an event. I love seeing it in nature instead of on a red carpet. There have been a few moments, but they were pretty organic and we were never actively pushing to put the brand on those ‘It Girls’, it just came to us. It’s one of those things where you never know until you know. What he did for the business in such a short time was pretty drastic. I had to turn around and realize that if my product was more visible, that was a great thing and I needed to lean into that. Every time I’m working on a new collection, there’s always a narrative behind each one. It’s me dreaming up a fantasy of, ‘What do I want to see her wearing?’ and it might just be a little cropped sweater vest, but I still dream of that normality of, ‘How do you wear things that are mundane, but are interesting and are you feeding back into the concept?’ That has always been what I have always strived to do. All that ‘It Girl’ placement and celebrity has been secondary. But it’s nice that it happened organically.
GRAZIA: You have resounding endorsements from Emily Ratajkowski, Zendaya, Dua Lipa, Hailey Bieber, etc. Was there a celebrity moment that cemented the brand in the zeitgeist?
ESBER: It was a bit of a crescendo. There were Zendaya, Solange and Emily Ratajkowski one after another. I think it was the power in the consistency. That’s when I felt like there were more eyes on the brand. I remember at that point I was like, ‘What’s going on?’ There were also crazy requests for deadlines. I was showing a collection in Paris and had to go to the next district (couldn’t get an Uber) to take this dress to a concierge for Emily. At the same time, Solange was in Cannes for an event. It sucked! It all happened in one day!
GRAZIA: The traffic in Paris is so bad. So you found it personally?
ESBER: Yes! It was a mix of cycling and running. I feel like that was a pivotal moment. I am happy to have done it!
GRAZIA: How is the Australian Esber woman different from the international user?
ESBER: They are actually quite similar. The collections are large and there are different aspects of women. With that, different stores buy different pieces. This ‘dress for the beach but you’re not at the beach’ idea is the best way to put it. My cuts resemble a bikini or bathing suit that is done in a more elevated way. We’re not always trying to achieve that specifically, but I think that’s what internationals really like and what they want from me. But of course, the brand has a history with tailoring. For example, our tie-bra dress, which we’ve had for some time, was cut into a wool suit, so there’s that synergy between tailoring and beachwear.
GRAZIA: Tailoring and deconstruction are signatures of the brand. When you sit down at the drawing board to start a new collection, where do you start? How does Esber evolve the woman while staying true to the brand’s DNA?
ESBER: You’re always looking at what has worked in the past and you’re always building on that. I think this idea of going back to ideas that are really pure and simple is something I’m always striving for, and it plays into that whole deconstruction approach. For me, it’s more of a state of mind. I have not always worked like this. When I came out of university, I was very focused on design and product, but now I’m really thinking about images from the beginning; How do you put this shirt on? What fabric does it have to be to do that? I’m always thinking about how she wears her clothes. I think that’s how the brand is evolving. It can be very long baggy pants, we may want to clean it up and finish it at the ankle. I’ll think about things like that at first and that’s how the style and look evolves.
GRAZIA: What inspires you?
ESBER: I love things that are really tactile and I have always been very inspired by interiors and the materiality of the different surfaces. That’s why I work with a lot of resins and stones. As far as fabrics go, once I know I like something, I generally like to run around in it because it only gets better with time. It’s like designing a car: each model that comes along is meant to get better and better. That’s where I put my energy. When I choose a fabric, I start shaping and sewing.
GRAZIA: When I look at an Esber dress online, and having worn the brand for years, I take note of the material. From this, I know what size I will be and how the fabric will stretch and mold to my body. So it’s easier for me to shop online, which is probably a dangerous thing to do!
ESBER: It’s exactly what you said, it’s about making it easy for the client to know what works for them. With me, once I find the shape of my shirt that I like, I buy it in all colors. During COVID, that was a whole strategy. We had seen all the buyers from all over the world. [prior to the pandemic]-whether they bought the collection or not- and they knew the groups, they knew the fabrics. That’s why the brand really grew during the period. We relied on things we’d shown them in the past and core groups we’d built.
GRAZIA: What is one hard/key lesson you have learned in the last 12 years?
“When you get a chance to do something, grab it, because it may not come around again. I’ve learned it the hard way. I think that’s super key and applies to everything, right? Life is short.”
GRAZIA: And if someone says, ‘Take that dress to Emily Ratajkowski in Paris now,’ you’re going to run! And if it’s Law Roach, you’ll run even faster.
ESBER: Exactly! [Laughs].
GRAZIA: What’s next for Christopher Esber: the brand and the man?
ESBER: We are looking at different categories and how we can build the world around the brand, the universe around the Esber woman. I am enjoying this moment and riding the wave. You look back and you have these big dreams and we’re getting there and it’s an exciting time. As for me, I’m doing what I love to do, I’m very happy. You always want a good work/life balance and I feel like I have it. I’ve always toyed with the idea of moving abroad, but I love living in Sydney. I like that sometimes it can feel a little isolating because you put your head down and work, not just at work, but on yourself and your life.