Esprit was one of the “must have” brands of the 1980s especially among the teens and young adults. During the early 80s it epitomized the spirit of the era, and a look at the old magazines should explain why.
The brand’s clothing line was certainly colorful, which was in line with the general exuberance of the early 80s compared to the drab and colorless 70s. Like the neon fad, the colors of Esprit seemed like a beacon that drew eyes upon the clothes wherever you went.
The logo was also iconic. The font was an all-cap lettering featuring simple yet broken lines. The letter E didn’t have the vertical line and instead just had 3 horizontal lines. The S had a space in the middle instead of a continuous curved line. The two lines of the T didn’t touch. It was different, and it perfectly suited the need of the youth to be different from their parents. That logo was prominently displayed on the fronts of the shirts and sweaters.
The Culture of Esprit
But perhaps the most important marketing move was the launch of the “Real People” campaign. Instead of featuring models, they had their own employees wearing the clothes in the advertisements. And when you take a look at those faces, you realize that they were sporting real smiles. They weren’t faking at all. They really were happy.
It started with the workplace. It wasn’t just a drab office with dividers or cubicles. The headquarters was a former winery that was renovated to feature skylights and wooden floors, and the walls displayed Amish quilts. The headquarters also had a trendy café along with a running track and tennis courts.
Management encouraged the employees to dress fashionably and yet casually, and high heeled shoes were not permitted to protect the floors. To get the workers to wear their own clothing line, management saw to it that employees enjoyed a 52% discount on Esprit clothing. And to give them a better foundation for elegant styling, they received subsidized tickets to the opera, ballet, and theatre. They even received foreign language lessons along with free vacations in the mountains.
Workers called their workplace “Little Utopia” and “Camp Esprit”, and they loved working there. Unfortunately, the brand’s prominence didn’t last as their market grew older, but for a time kids (and the young at heart) enjoyed a brand that epitomized youth and exuberance.