Lead Designer at Austin-based brand Esby is the dream job incarnate for Stephanie Beard. After spending her life savings to kickstart the brand in 2014, Stephanie’s style inspiration has taken on a life of its own, sprouting a flagship retail location, swimwear, a line of leather accessories, and an expanding team. Seeking to create an almost seasonless capsule collection with cues from Stephanie’s early days in design, Esby got its spark designing an ultra-wearable collection for women with a “menswear mentality.”
Their latest collection was inspired by time spent touring the home of artist Donald Judd in Marfa, Texas during a trip Stephanie took with her Production Director, Assistant Designer and first hire, Lauren Kirby in 2016. With Esby’s characteristic breezy silhouettes and a color palette of the American West, this collection delivers equally on comfort and style. Read along to hear how Esby began and the inspiration Stephanie finds in bringing her customers a confidence in the way their clothes are made, and the way they look in them.
How did you get started with Esby?
I actually got started as a menswear designer after college. I moved to New York and worked for a few big companies like Tommy Hilfiger, starting out in childrenswear and then moved just to designing boys clothes. After that I took a job at Levi’s and followed my boss to the next job. That was my first menswear position. I really fell in love with it at first, and then all of a sudden felt completely stuck. [Menswear] is so simple and therefore so hard to differentiate yourself as a brand, so it made me become a strong designer early on. I had to figure out how to brand a crew t-shirt, and a simple pant, to make it feel distinguished.
I left Levi’s for Converse where I stayed for the next five years and designed the One Star Collection at Target. That was the first time as a designer I was introduced – outside of mood boards and sketching – to the production cycle. Target is a well-oiled machine, so before you’ve even created something they’ve already bought it for the store. I had a sliver of a budget for fabric and another sliver for sewing, so that was another skill I learned there, to design into such a small price point and make something look more valuable than what we were selling it for.