Now in its fourth decade, Esprit is ripe for reinvention. The international apparel label, which Susie Buell and Doug Tompkins began in 1968 from the back of a Volkswagen minibus in San Francisco, asked graduating students at London’s prestigious Royal College of Art to create a capsule collection for Autumn/Winter 2011. The creative brief: “Can fashion be sustainable?” Out of 22 participating students, only three were chosen as winners. Victoria Hill used oversized needles to knit unspun, undyed merino wool into ultra-chunky sweaters with bobbles the size of golf balls. Gothenburg-raised Amélie Marciasini, inspired by the bold colors in Esprit’s archives, dip-dyed mohair and denim fabrics in acid colors like burnt orange and fluorescent pink. And Katie Hildebrand, who has a yen for technical textiles, produced fluid shirtdresses and semi-sheer palazzo pants in digitally printed silk chiffon and georgette.

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THE NEXT GENERATION

Esprit’s production team reinterpreted the winning designs into a 15-piece, limited-edition collection. The result, according to Colin Henry, the company’s chief product officer, is a wearable take on popular trends that reflects Esprit’s ethos on social responsibility. ”Esprit challenged RCA Fashion students to create an inspiring capsule collection, with the objective to push boundaries in design and in style,” he adds.

The result is a wearable take on popular trends that reflects Esprit’s ethos on social responsibility.

Comprising contrast-lined denim trousers, drapey jersey blouses, color-blocked sheath dresses, and hand-knitted open-weave sweaters—derived, for the most part, from ethically raised Australian merino—the Esprit RCA Limited Edition will be available in select stores in London, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, and Berlin starting September.

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+ Royal College of Art