As we get deeper and deeper into this new decade, fashion industry insiders are figuring out what will define it in terms of what consumers want and how brands can deliver. Matters related to customer services are always a top concern. But now more than ever so is sustainability.
The topic of sustainability can diverge into a million different directions; there are so many ways fashion people are trying to tackle the issue. From a designer’s perspective, we’re trying to cut waste, and there are many designers who try to balance an inherent knack for setting forth new trends with the responsibility to create timeless pieces that one will want to cherish for years, not be sick of after one season.
One who shares this perspective with me is Gabriela Hearst, founder of her eponymous label and Creative Director of heritage brand Chloé. Of course, we have our individual ways to achieve similar objectives, which is why I’m going to outline the differences below. To learn more about the differences between Gabriela Hearst and Esquivel Shoes, read on.
Gabriela Hearst: A highly contemporary luxury fashion brand that’s sharp and sustainable
Uruguayan-born designer Gabriela Hearst launched her label in 2015 and became known quickly for her sincere approach to sustainability, among other things. Design-wise, she’s very intentional with her choices, according to a 2017 feature in The Wall Street Journal. The article comments on her sensible approach to design that’s inspired by those for which it’s created, women. It also gives insight into her worldliness, citing her realization that men’s suiting fabrics were better quality than women’s and how Hearst ultimately married that observation with an objective to protect women’s reproductive organs from the radiation emitted through cellular phones. As a result, she used a silver-coated lining to protect against the radiation.
In just over half a decade in business, she’s even managed to produce a carbon-neutral runway show. No blow dryers, straighteners or curling irons to prep hair, and models were sourced locally.
Her footwear and accessories are as striking as her tailored items. In terms of production, they’re made in Italy at tanneries approved by Leather Working Group, a nonprofit that monitors practices within the leather supply chain for eco-friendliness. Heels are generally low, and styles draw on silhouettes from decades prior that have reverberated through the years. They’re timeless and tactful—two essential components to achieve the aforementioned sustainable objective of offering consumers something they’ll want to treasure for years.
Esquivel: A tenured brand with California coolness and traditional practices that are inherently sustainable
Esquivel was founded about 20 years ago with the value of handmade and made-to-order shoe processes in mind. We started small and grew steadily, so as not to grow too quickly and in turn diminish the integrity of the business, which was, first and foremost, handcrafting shoes for premier retailers and private clients around the globe. We want our clients, both men and women, to feel comfortable and confident, not too buttoned-up. And the aesthetic is very West Coast-influenced.
Esquivel may not have scaled like Gabriela Hearst—we’re a much smaller brand—but that’s because our company values the personalized experience that comes with specializing in made-to-order items too much to ever lose it. To foster that experience, we opened Esquivel House—the team’s definition of the perfect place to order shoes and everything else for a relaxed yet sophisticated aesthetic. There are only a handful of craftsmen who work on the shoes, which is purposeful because it allows me, as a founder, to take a more hands-on approach to design and creation, as well as for better quality control.
Made-to-order shoe-making is inherently sustainable because we only produce what there’s a demand for. There’s little waste in this business model. As far as materials go, they’re on par with other luxury brands; in terms of price, we sit approximately 30 percent lower across all shoe and handbag styles. Our pricing has a lot to do with the fact that our products are handmade in Los Angeles from high-quality materials. There are countless steps the cobblers must follow to complete handmade leather goods, and this time and care spent inevitably plays a role in pricing. But when products are made by makers from start to finish, there is an assurance of exceptional quality and one-of-a-kind details.
And as I mentioned in an earlier article, other companies (not necessarily Gabriela Hearst) use less refined materials, like cardboard and sponge, for insoles. This sacrifices comfort and quality for the wearer. Esquivel uses leather, a fully biodegradable material, to provide maximum comfort, supreme quality and, as a result, the best possible value for a pair of shoes.
Each brand has its appeal and value; both take the environment into account. Something I say pridefully is that these respective brands are very well-made. Aesthetically, we each have our own perspective, though I like to think we’ve both bred our brands from our values of subtle sophistication and wearability rather than overt trendiness. In purchasing a luxury shoe or accessory, you can’t go wrong with either brand, as both are designed with versatility and longevity in mind.
George is a Southern California-based designer and craftsman who designed his first pair of shoes in 1994 and began honing his craft thereafter. For over 20 years, he’s operated his namesake brand, Esquivel, which specializes in handmade shoes and accessories. In the last decade, George served as Creative Director of renowned luxury bag and luggage brand Tumi Inc. and as Creative Consultant for Italian heritage brand Fratelli Rossetti, and has collaborated with many others for his own brand. George was a 2009 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund finalist, and has been a CFDA member since 2010. When he’s not working alongside his team of artisans at his atelier, Esquivel House, in Downtown Los Angeles, George is enjoying time with his wife and high school sweetheart, Shelley, and their three grown children. He also loves mountain biking and hosting good friends for dinners and fêtes.