Stephanie Beard, owner of the Austin, Texas-based clothing line Esby, examines a white button-down blouse. “Do we like the sheerness of this shirt?” she asks everyone in the room.
A clothing rack near the wall holds her second collection, still in its early stages of development: a menswear-inspired assortment of blouses, pullovers and trousers. I snap photos, engrossed by Beard’s first fitting with local garment studio Nola Sewn (2101 8th St., Harvey).
“Sheer is pretty in right now. I don’t see a problem with it,” says Nola Sewn director Lisa Iacono.
Beard appreciates the attention Iacono and her team have dedicated to Esby. After manufacturing of her line fell through in New York, Beard moved production to New Orleans.
“New York was very fast-paced and rushed. Trying to feel special there was really hard,” Beard said before the fitting. “A friend told me about Nola Sewn, and I reached out to Lisa. She’s been amazing.”
A fashion designer herself, Iacono launched Nola Sewn in 2012 because she saw a need for local production facilities. The business grew exponentially through word of mouth, going from two or three clients to more than 20 in its first year.
Beard credits her Nola Sewn partnership for introducing her to New Orleans’ unique culture.
“What inspires us about New Orleans is the whole Parisian feeling. I think Parisian women are such beautiful dressers. That’s what we’re trying to focus on —pieces that feel easy, but also sexy,” Beard said.
Beard is confident she can bring her vision of relaxed, effortless pieces to life on this side of the Atlantic.
“When I shop for clothes, it’s important that something is of high-quality and made in the U.S.,” Beard said. “The pieces in our second collection will come a long way. They’ll be dyed and washed to feel more worn and lived in, so they’re not in their final stage just yet.”
Beard grabs a soft, cream-colored sweatshirt from the rack. She and Nola Sewn’s pattern maker, Amanda Stone, analyze the stitching. “Do you think we could make this reversible?” Beard asks.
“Steph is very organized, which we love, and she sends her sketches with all of the callouts of detailing for stitches,” Stone told me during a tour of the studio. “After the pattern is done, we’ll cut the sample. Sometimes we’ll use a basic, cotton fabric, but Steph likes to go right into her fabric so she can envision what it’s going to look like finished.”
Iacono admits working with out-of-state clients can be difficult, but she believes Beard’s previous work experience with larger fashion companies, like Converse and Levi’s, gave her the ability to communicate her vision through email.
“She asks a lot of questions, and she understands that our turnaround depends on that communication,” Iacono says. “It’s been a really effective process, and it’s made me feel proud of our team. Amanda receiving information from me, relaying it to the sewers, and Steph coming in and seeing what she ordered is just really rewarding.”
Iacono compares working on Esby to working on an album.
“That’s the best analogy I can think of to describe it, because every style is like a song,” Iacono said. “The construction is different for every piece. Every piece has a different personality, but when it comes to the entire collection, they all have to sing.”
Stone seems to know what Beard is thinking as she points to the lack of fabric in the sleeves of the sweatshirt. She jots down notes.
Beard’s friend, Lauren Kirby, tries the garment on, and Stone measures the sleeves with a pink measuring tape she wears around her neck.
“I love this. What if we shorten the sleeves a bit?” Beard asks adjusting the fit and standing back to observe the changes in the mirror. “It’s so Parisian,” she says.
Iacono grins at Kirby’s reflection from her seat in the corner. “Oh, it’s so Esby,” she says.