“She’s an urban woman. She lives in the city but also loves the outdoors,”
says Stephanie Beard, 32, the mind behind esby, a brand-new, Austin-based clothing line, of the woman who will wear her clothes. “She likes to look good but she also doesn’t want to be uncomfortable when looking good. At the end of the day, she wants to be proud of what she’s wearing.”
To fund her line of menswear-inspired women’s clothing, the North Carolina native started a Kickstarter campaign, hoping to raise $10,000 in 30 days. She reached her goal in less than 48 hours.
Stephanie’s path into fashion began when she inherited her grandmother’s sewing machine. “Even as a small kid I would take my cheerleading sweatshirts and cut them up and sew them into bathing suits,” she says. “I’ve been sewing and making stuff as long as I can remember.”
Stephanie continued her love of clothes design into college and earned a degree in clothing and textiles from Appalachian State University. “I didn’t even think that it would have been an option in the mountains of North Carolina,” she says of her fashion degree. After graduating, Stephanie followed her dream to New York, where she got her start at Tommy Hilfiger.
“I was able to learn a lot about pattern making and fit,” Stephanie says of her time working with Hilfiger’s kidswear line. “Having that background made me a better designer.”
Becoming a better designer is precisely what Stephanie did. She went on to work at Levi’s, where she designed and fell in love with menswear, and then spent more than five years designing for Converse’s One Star line, found at Target.
Stephanie designs all the clothes herself. “I sketch them all out. I pick the fabrics. I create all the specs.”
The factory she uses, Nola Sewn, is one of the smallest in the country and located in New Orleans. “We’ve gone through about three rounds on these styles to get them perfectly right. I travel to the factory to sit with them during fittings.”
Stephanie is now on a mission to erase the idea of “fast fashion” with esby (which is meant to sound like S.B., the designer’s initials). She is referring to stores like H&M that crank out mounds of clothing that are cheap, but fall apart or go out of style too quickly.
“I discovered that the pieces that I had more of an emotional relationship with were the ones that stayed in my closet,” she says.
Throughout the three rounds of production with her factory that included meticulous dyeing and washing to create that “worn-in comfortable feel,” Stephanie puts a full range of emotions into each piece of clothing she brings to life, all in the hope that the pieces she produces will be cherished in the closets of others for years to come.
esby’s 100% cotton, made-in-America garments are available to purchase through Kickstarter until March 6, and then on esbyapparel.com after that.
Photography: Sharon Clark
Writing by: Brooke Blanton
This article originally published in The Admire Issue of Citygram Austin Magazine [February 2014].
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