Our next #FREDAGirl is Stephanie Beard, Founder of Esby Apparel based in Austin, Texas. We first met Stephanie at Trans Pecos in Marfa. We were drawn to the laid back/effortless, yet totally designed and cool vibe of her clothes. The more we learned about her brand the harder we fell. Slow fashion, designed in Austin, made in the USA. Take a peek into her world below and be prepared to be inspired!
Images by Hannah Koehler
You have quite a diverse background in the fashion industry and have worked for some big brands names. Tell us about your journey to now. What was your inspiration for Esby Apparel?
I always say that it was my time spent designing fast fashion and menswear that led me to here. I knew I wanted the line to always be american-made and to represent slow fashion practices. I wanted the apparel to be relevant but not overly-trendy, like menswear. I honestly have to think every designer has their own line sketched in their head at all times, but it’s likely we are working for someone else. (I do recommend this because it’s such a big risk to go out on your own but I’ll touch on that later.) during my time as a corporate designer, I spent years tucking away savings and planning what Esby would be before taking the leap. One of the biggest decisions I've made was to uproot my life in NYC and move to Austin where I knew one person and start a small business. I had no idea what that looked like at the time. That one person is now my husband and Esby turns 4 years old in February. What I thought would be a small womenswear collection that I could handle on my own has grown into a multi-person staff and collections for women and men, as well as women’s swim. The Esby boutique has grown to include not only our in-house collections, but an array of other brands we love and admire- (including Freda!)
How do you describe the style and aesthetic of your line? How is Esby different than other clothing brands launching product right now?
Although we consider ourselves a sustainable fashion brand of apparel that will last a long time in your capsule wardrobe, we don’t see our apparel as too basic. We want to replace your basics with more interesting "basics”. While we are designing and making more interesting basics, we also aren’t over-designed. Every design includes thoughtfully selected fabrics and trims. We don’t want to over-do anything, we just want to design that go-to piece in your closet that’s functional but fashionable without being overly so. There shouldn’t be a lot of effort involved when you get dressed. You should put on comfortable clothes that also happen to look great and make you feel good. That’s what we are about because life is busy, we produce 2 big collections per year and each collection flows nicely into the next.
What's something that used to challenge you, but doesn't anymore? What challenges you now?
Good question. It used to be challenging to delegate to my staff. going from no staff to a team of 7 has taken a lot off of my plate, but it was hard at first. Now I’m using what I’ve learned to train my most senior staff to manage and delegate. What challenges me now is having enough time to sit with the design process. We always plan enough time and then running a business always manages to steal it back. We have a new office space so it’s nice to be able to get away from the shop and sit in quiet with our ideas and really let them form. Too much time away from the shop and our customers will also pose a problem, so that balancing act is a new challenge, albeit one I welcome and something that will always be a challenge for me is arriving anywhere on time.
Did you have a mentor in a classic sense?
I do, several really. They all happen to be my past bosses and I look up to each of them for different reasons. They really shaped me as a designer and business owner, my design bosses taught me process and detail. When I moved from NYC to Austin I knew nothing about sales or retail. I knew I needed to learn from the best, so I looked for a job at STAG - a menswear boutique that I admired and still do. The owners became new mentors and I still think of them daily as I am faced with new business decisions.
I’ve learned some incredible things from so many people. My time working in the fashion industry was irreplaceable and I always recommend that future designers work for someone else first before going out on their own. Make mistakes on someone else’s dime, learn from others then rework your new knowledge to suit your unique business needs.
Following your dreams is so important and you’ve got to do all of the above in order to see them through. It’s a daunting task to run a growing business, but you have to believe in your own future in order to realize it.