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Inside Esprit’s California Comeback

Esprit is making a comeback with a return to its roots.

The women and men’s lifestyle brand has opened a pop-up storefront in Los Angeles—its first foray into the U.S. retail market since 2012. Founded more than half a century ago in San Francisco, Esprit has spent the past decade operating 160 stores across 30 global markets from its Hong Kong headquarters. Its return to California will coincide with the relaunch of the brand’s U.S. e-commerce site.

“Esprit is an iconic brand that many people remember fondly from the heyday of the 1980s, but has lost its identity over the past decade,” CEO William Pak told Sourcing Journal. “The nostalgia for the fashions of that time and a desire for positivity and inclusivity that Esprit has always stood for makes this the perfect time for a comeback.”

The pop-up shop features custom shelving and branding in Esprit's signature palette.

The Beverly Hills pop-up will house the brand’s current collection as well as exclusive capsules set to debut throughout the fall. The autumn-winter line pulls inspiration from 1980s archival staples, blending its “original bright California style with a modern update,” Pak said.

“The design team drew inspiration from a trove of sketches, photographs, campaign reels and samples in the brand’s 50-plus year archive to create a collection that is sleek and elevated,” nodding to its heritage with brilliant pops of color. “We kept the distinctive Esprit logo without feeling too retro,” the executive added.

The 2,500-square-foot space, managed by Retail for the People and designed by Thierry Dreyfus and artist Edward K. Ross of Eyesight Group, captures the same vibrancy, echoing the color palette of the brand’s product. Six galvanized metal structures spell out “Esprit” in neon lettering, while also serving as shelving and rack storage for apparel. Moss at the base of each structure provides a juxtaposition to the industrial feel while nodding to the brand’s environmental ambitions. In recent years, the brand has deepened its commitment to using organic and recycled fabrications, and it incorporated U.N. Sustainable Development goals into its sustainability strategy in 2018.

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The autumn-winter 2022 line pulls inspiration from the brand's classic staples.

Pak said the store’s location Robertson Boulevard was chosen strategically, as the thoroughfare is known for its high-end boutiques and flagships as well as its international clientele. “Los Angeles was a natural choice for Esprit’s first pop-up in the U.S. because the brand originated in California, and Robertson Boulevard is an iconic shopping destination,” he said. “The first collection available in the pop-up includes a capsule collaboration exclusively for Los Angeles, and future pop-ups will have similar local partnerships.”

The CEO said Esprit intends to open a permanent store in Los Angeles in 2023 after the pop-up’s conclusion on Jan. 4, and plans are underway to open flagship locations in New York, London, Toronto, and Vancouver as well. The group is assessing its options for future North American retail outposts in the future, and is moving its base of operations to New York to be closer to the market.

Moss provides a visual representation of the brand's sustainability commitments.

“Getting close to our customers is our priority, and this is being achieved through omnichannels via e-shops and offline through brick-and-mortar stores, experience centers, and pop-up stores,” Pak said. “Our ambitions for brick-and-mortar retail are global, and the approach is local.”