LONDON — After winning over industry experts in Paris for his modern and poetic take on men’s tailoring as one of the nine finalists of this year’s LVMH Prize for Young Fashion Designers, Aaron Esh is in growth mode.
This season, he’s expanding his young, namesake label to include womenswear. The designs will be revealed during his runway debut Monday night during London Fashion Week.
The show will take place at Tate Modern with more than 25 models walking in a former gallery space on the seventh floor. The space overlooks the Millennium Bridge which has a laminated floor that reminds him of his “sh– student accommodation.”
Esh said the event is inspired by old Helmut Lang shows. “It’s like, white chairs, lamps on the floor, and the clothes. That’s it,” he said.
The British designer, who was born and raised in Islington, London, launched his label right after graduating from Central Saint Martins with a master’s degree in fashion design.
His designs contrast traditional tailoring with constructions and details borrowed from womenswear. Examples include puff-skirt jeans, a halter-neck waistcoat, and hoodies with tie fastenings.
The brand is stocked at six retailers worldwide: Ssense, LN-CC, Machine-A, Browns, H. Lorenzo and Antonioli.
During a preview with WWD, Esh said adding women’s is logical because buyers, customers — and even Zendaya — were asking for it. Last month, the “Euphoria” star wore a bespoke halterneck wool waistcoat from the brand for her starring role in the SmartWater campaign.
“You could put her in a black hoodie and she’d look incredible. We have said ‘no’ to every single red carpet, press and celebrity request for the last year. Until it was her. It just made sense for the brand. I believe there was a real crossover between our point of view and what she stands for,” said Esh.
The designer added that Zendaya kept the waistcoat in the end. “She wasn’t meant to, but she asked us for it, which I think says how it went for everyone.”
Esh said he’s aware that his namesake label could be pigeonholed as a brand with a “very niche point of view on menswear” and the introduction of womenswear allows him to broaden his appeal and his vision.
He said he wants to create a wardrobe that’s not bound by traditional gender rules.
“Of course there are dresses for women, but really it’s just one rail of clothes that all sit together. I think there is this unity, and they kind of sit together in a way that is not about androgyny. It’s much more about how I see modern dressing. My women are very feminine, glamorous and beautiful, and so are the men. At the same time, they can both have masculine shoulders,” he added.
The designer said his personal favorites include bubble skirts, draped dresses, a keyhole blouse, a floor-length pencil skirt, and an evening dress with “a very unpretentious finish that could be something completely bad, but in the context of that dress, it feels amazing.”
The leather used in the collection, which feels like butter and drapes perfectly on the body according to Esh, is from Ecco, the Danish shoe brand that also supplies premium leather to major luxury players. The ripped jeans are made with denim by Isko from Turkey.
“I think denim and leather add a new level of depth to the wardrobe I am building. The leather feels so luxurious and denim is totally the other way. Yet both of them being in that wardrobe feels very everyday and young,” said Esh.
“The young-ness, the mixing highbrow elements of traditional luxury with a very specific subculture of east London feels very earnest to me. It relates to the people I met in Paris, and they are worn by the boys and girls from Saint Martins at a party on Saturday night at 4:00 a.m. in Dalston,” he added.
The entire collection is produced in London. It might be more costly, but Esh believes that his brand is “fairly priced for the fabric choices and the finish.” A two-button blazer from the brand’s fall 2023 collection is priced at 1,000 pounds, while a pair of wrap trousers retails at 840 pounds.
“I work with a factory [in Forest Gate in east London]. They are like master tailors and are expensive, but they deliver at the level of my expectations. If it means that our margins are slightly cut now, but in the long term, we have credibility. We make good clothes,” he said.
At the moment, the designer runs the brand with a small team from the basement of his aunt’s [dry cleaners] on Essex Road in Islington, which she has owned since the ’60s. The basement used to host a clothing factory.
“It sounds like such a cliché. My aunt is in her 80s. If I don’t know how to sew something, I go upstairs, she pins it and it’s done. She really enjoys me being there. I think we give her a lot of energy for having a lot of hustle and bustle by running this new business,” said Esh.