Started by husband and wife team Doug and Suzie Thompkins in 1968 as the Plain Jane Dress Company, Esprit became one of the biggest apparel companies of the 1980s.
The Thompkins sold their first garments (1940s-inspired dresses) from the back of their station wagon, and within two years were able to hire a team of designers to further their dream.
In 1970, the name changed to Esprit de Corps, and in 1979, the famous three-bar ‘E’ became integral to the company’s logo when graphic designer John Casado created one of the most recognised symbols of the apparel world.
By 1980, Esprit’s catalogue campaign garnered international recognition for their clothes and avant-garde advertising.
Bold coloured clothes in comfortable, natural fabrics were the cornerstone of Esprit. The look was for sophisticated, fashion-conscious individuals and instilled great label lust in youths seeking an exotic label during the Eurochic days of the 80s – when to own just one item with the three-bar logo was the secret password to cooldom.
Esprit became about much more than clothes: it was a complete look, and a way of life that appealed to the unconventionally conventional.
Cafe Esprit opened in 1986, and the Esprit name was on an entire range of household products to complement the growing obsession with the chic lifestyle offered by Esprit.
Controversy arose when Esprit used their advertising to publicise the growing concern over the AIDS virus, but the company was heralded for their socially responsible convictions.
Esprit’s edge dulled with the fading trend of Eurochic fashion, but returned to the forefront of fashion with the Ecollection of environmentally friendly clothing in the 90s.