Aaron Esh is designing with his mates in mind

Aaron Esh is designing with his mates in mind

by Ollie Cox
6 min

With his collections stocked on SSENSE, a limited-edition scarf in collaboration with 1664 Blanc sold in Selfridges, and Kim Jones wearing his baseball caps, Aaron Esh has gone from Central Saint Martins standout to London Fashion Week highlight in two years. 

A graduate of CSM’s MA Menswear course, it was his subtle subversions of gendered dressing and viral Comma Derby shoes that first got people talking. Aaron Esh’s Fall/Winter 2022 graduate collection saw short-sleeved hooded tops and technical jackets finished with ruched collars and bubble hems. In FW23, halterneck waistcoats and bubble skirts were thrown into the mix, laying the foundations for his menswear manifesto and demonstrating a technicality that would later extend into his womenswear offering.

When we catch up, Esh is switching off for the first time in two years, applying the brakes to his burgeoning brand and the successes that come with it. Despite being in the middle of nowhere with no reception, he’s still thinking of what’s next. “I’m looking forward to getting back in the studio and starting SS25,” he shares. Esh, who has only shown on the London Fashion Week schedule twice, has had fashion editors and buyers eager to experience his label and the world around it, thanks to his energetic and real-life approach. 

In September 2023, he made his London Fashion Week debut. With the backing and support of the British Fashion Council’s NEWGEN initiative for emerging designers, women’s looks were woven into his offering. What unfolded was a seamless presentation of the Aaron Esh world, where free-flowing tailoring intersected with bootleg jeans and bomber jackets in a London-tinged exploration of adolescence and early adulthood. “Each collection I’ve done has really just been informed by the period of life I’m in,” he tells us. Elegant evening wear collided head-on with everyday utilitarianism, reflecting the coming-of-age experience of being in your twenties. This is the kid who wants to go clubbing but has to pay council tax at the end of the month. 

Throwing a fashion show in a tricky economic landscape where the cost of living continues to climb is expensive and adds to the immense pressure on emerging designers. For his Fall/Winter 2024 collection, Esh partnered with 1664 Blanc as a commercial partner as part of the NEWGEN initiative. When asked about the impact of working with the label, he doesn’t shy away from its significance. “We literally wouldn’t have been able to do our show without their support. I think it’s really hard to find commercial partners that feel in line with your brand, and we were really lucky that not only have they been so supportive, but it’s not just any old beer brand. It’s chic.” 

The partnership went beyond show support and into “exclusive scarves that are available in Selfridges:” a full-circle moment for Esh. “I’m from London, so Selfridges is an important part of my childhood. I queued for the Boxing Day sales when I was a teenager. It’s a British landmark. Having AE available at Selfridges feels really amazing,” he explains. 1664 Blanc’s support of NEWGEN designers extends beyond exciting retail opportunities and into the development of the brand itself. “There’s a really nice synergy between the brands – Blanc’s tagline is ‘with a twist,’ which I think really lent itself to our fashion POV,” he added.

1664 Blanc ©

Undoubtedly, the influences of Martin Margiela and Nicolas Ghesquière permeate Esh’s fashion point of view, where clothing is cloaked in a personal narrative, and London is its protagonist. “Fashion here feels like a really important part of people’s lives, and I want my fashion to show that.” But most importantly, it is shaped by what his friends wear and “how they wear it.” For Fall/Winter 2024, Esh swapped the towering top floor of the Tate Modern for his native East London. The location was the upstairs room of the Sarabande Foundation, the charity set up by Lee McQueen to support emerging designers that has been home to the Aaron Esh studio since November 2023. Sitting at the intersection between Dalston and De Beauvoir Town, where heady low-capacity venues, fabric shops and luxury period properties collide, the show setting, much like its commercial partner, spoke to the carefully carved identity of the Aaron Esh brand.

Against a juxtaposing backdrop of Georgian villas and industrial warehouses, Esh’s idiosyncratic East London lens was applied to heavy-weight coats which cocooned models who wore them with hoodies and sunglasses, loosely styled to leave the house, where mesh detailing and delicate couture-like draping was applied to evening dresses in hazy purple hues. For Esh, who pays particular attention to such detailed styling – be it the pop of a collar or the way a hat is pulled down over a model’s face – it’s “as important as any other element of the collection,” he shares. “It tells the story.” In his own words, the Aaron Esh woman is “hungover on a Sunday but has a Chanel coat on.” This woman isn’t plucked from the Internet and pinned to a mood board. It’s inspired by his next-door neighbour Kiki, who opened the show. “I would see her on Broadway Market, in her weekend mufti, without any bother, a hoodie thrown on, shades over her eyes. But the week before, she’d walked for Chanel.” 

While Esh’s Fall/Winter 2024 solidified the foundations of the brand, his playful takes on team logo baseball caps have been cropping up on the crowns of the cool crowd ever since his debut collection. Again, just like his collaboration with 1664 Blanc, these more accessible pieces speak to the designer’s younger experiences. “I really loved this bootleg cap I once had. So we just decided to do our own. I haven’t been sued yet.” Esh’s pairing of baseball caps with tailored pieces contributes to the haute-hungover chic seen on the FW24 runway, but they also reflect an ability to design wearable markers of the Aaron Esh brand of cool. To the untrained eye, these look like your usual branded baseball cap, but with their subtlely distressed brims and decentred badges, they serve as an “if you know, you know” allegiance to the brand, which he wants “to exist for a long time.” 

Aaron Esh is the embodiment of everything great about London’s fashion community. Having studied at Central Saint Martins and now being nurtured by NEWGEN, he designs with the UK Capital at heart. His collections are rooted in a narrative that speaks to so many of us. It’s buying the expensive coat that you can’t really afford but doing it anyway and wearing it everywhere in your own way. And with a fashion label that’s been eaten up by just about anyone cool for two consecutive seasons, it’d be easy to think Esh was a workaholic with no time for anything fun. But as his sworn-by hungover concoction of “Rescue Remedy, Marlboro Touch, 2 litres of water, and an episode of old Kitchen Nightmares” shows, he’s just like the rest of us. 

Cover Image: Mitchell O’Neil

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