Hong Kong’s newest favourite fashion designer from Sydney, CHRISTOPHER ESBER, meets KIM BUI KOLLAR on the launch of his collection at Lane Crawford
Australian designer Christopher Esber on his debut at Lane Crawford, Hong Kong
THE HANDSOME, SWEET Christopher Esber, who's seemingly come out of nowhere with his precise tailoring techniques, lives and works in Sydney. On the day of his collection launch at Lane Crawford, we had a cool chat. Born in Australia, Esber had always had an interest in design and was constantly drawing. He decided early on that fashion was something he wanted to do, so he studied the craft and then started his eponymous brand not long afterwards.
The brand is eight years old and has been an organic progression of love. As Esber freely admits, there has been a learning curve about what works and what doesn't in the different markets. The ethos focuses on creating classic pieces that aren't necessarily disposable. He wants to design items that women can come back to after a period of time – and while classic is important, it should always have a bit of a twist. Esber is also drawn to things that are somewhat boyish, trying to balance the masculine and the feminine. Even if it's a button-down shirt, there's a cut-out. He eagerly seeks a bit of release in every garment.
Together, we peruse a rack that showcases the exclusive capsule collection Esber has created for Lane Crawford. The resin buttons are done by hand and have become a signature. The knitwear is very strong and it's easy to see that it forms a big part of his success. He also loves working on suiting.
Esber uses the word “release” to describe his clothes quite often. I tell him that I interpret this to mean a sense of ease and sensuality. He clearly understands these neutral parts on a woman's body that make her feel sexy and highly intelligent at the same time. It's the tasteful allure of a collarbone, the small of the back or the side of the waist, even though everything else may be covered up. The word I reach for is “sensual”, but Esber isn't completely convinced.
Almost like a knee-jerk reaction, my hand reaches for the bubblegum-pink cardigan crewneck in cashmere. To my delight, I find a bit of “release” between the sleeve and the body of the sweater. The hem finishes at a length that would look incredibly smart with a high-waisted skirt or trousers, giving the Christopher Esber woman an articulate proportion. I completely agree with what Kate Moss always says about “knowing your lengths” – but it's the “release” found on the sweater that makes an item that may seemingly appear classic actually look contemporarily cool.
Typically, Esber's colour palette is composed of greys, blacks and creams. He was encouraged to step out of his comfort zone for this special capsule collection, where there are various vibrant shades of pink, lavender, white and navy. There's a tailored slip dress with his signature buttons, several skirts of various lengths (also with the buttons) and a crisp tailored button-down shirt with “open seams” running along what would be the raglan sleeve seams.
Esber's fabrications are nice, especially for the tailored pieces. There's good hand-feel and weight. Besides his taste level, this could also be attributed to his tailoring background. After he finished his design studies, he went to apprentice with a tailor, where he learned the foundations of making a garment. This explains the precise articulation of his garments – or “controlled measurements”.
We chit-chat over coffee as he continues his story. After his hands-on training with the tailor, he went to assist a stylist at Australian Vogue. This stylist, who will not be named, was one of those major fashion personalities, helming the kinds of editorial shoots depicted in the movies. One day, the stylist was determined to get some jodhpurs for a shoot. There was nothing in the collections at the time, so Esber had a thought: “Why don't I just make them?” Jodhpurs were the first of many things that he made to fulfil fashion shoot visions until it just made total sense to start his own line – after all, he was already getting his name credited for clothes in Australian Vogue.
Eight years later, his namesake brand has stockists all over the world and he's been worn by Kendall Jenner, Nicole Warne, Christine Centenera and Caroline Issa – a crew that might know a thing or two about style and being camera-ready. “I like my girls to have a bit of grit,” says Esber. “I love it when they look amazing, but also effortless and cool.
It's not about a prissy-pretty for me. I also never say no to anything.”
Esber's last statement fills me with intrigue to see what will show up in his collection next. If this is what's happening in Sydney on the fashion landscape, a trip may be in order soon.