In Christopher Esber's world, it was always going to start with a question. For Resort 23, more than ever, the choice of who the Esber wearer is was entirely our own.
Working off the idea of daydreaming and notions of nostalgia, the collection both harked back to the past – of summers spent licking ice cream curb side at the beach, cooling our tongues as our feet burned on the bitumen; of the clouds, wispy and transient, that hung in the sky only to be carried away by a salty breeze, and of silhouettes like billowy cargo pants that reminded us of our dads vacation pants and tube tops that reminded us of our mothers' – and shot forward into the future via technique and refinement.
"I was inspired by women in cities, and thinking about the type of woman you can be," Esber says in his studio two days out from the show. For the designer who is best known for his ability to make people look and feel their best, it often starts with this kind of conversation, and almost always asks: what do you want to wear?
Perhaps this is the key to the famed Esber effect. The result of what happens when someone who has great ideas asks his peers, team, and close friends what they actually feel good in, want to explore, and are comfortable wearing, creating a direct conversation between wearer and designer. One that was brought forward by the intimate setting of his Resort 23 show on the Tiffany & Co. rooftop in Sydney, where guests were asked to wear black to further this conversation with the clothing.
For Resort 23, the wearer is all grown up. She is experimenting with colour, shape, and accessorising more than she ever has. She is mixing real-life silhouettes with moments reserved for special occasions, a green crystal dress has been netted together in superfine strings and finished with a denim waistband around the bust, which is worn over matching spring green jeans suitable for everyday wear. In another iteration, the crystal netting is crafted into a butter yellow midi skirt and matching camisole, both of which with the same frayed denim waistbands around the bust and the hip.
Elsewhere, feminine ruffles are given a severe application to jersey dresses to tone down their flirtiness, while volume is experimented with at the hems of bubble dresses which don asymmetric hems or are clad with resin and metal oversized mariner chains that have been snaked around the body and woven through the fluid material. There are swishy pastel pink dresses and Neapolitan ice-cream coloured bodices, and then a few exits later, a perfectly tailored navy boiler suit with a half boot emerges before a story of warped metal that has been built into suiting and clingy black going-out dresses, embellished with seed bead fringing evocative of sea urchins and offering a brutalist approach to evening-wear.
In this sense, Esber has always played with this kind of contrast, riffing on the "duality of women", as he calls it. Ultra feminine dresses that have been slashed or distressed in ways that make them somehow less obviously sexy, or slouchy suits with nothing but bare skin underneath. For Resort 23, it is heightened within full looks that flit back and forth between loose coolness and refined elegance, giving the designer's undying fan club a slew of new options that indicate that the era of conforming into one specific stylistic category has been and gone. With this in mind, we are poised to ask: what does the future look like? For Esber, it's all fun. "We were channeling both a chaotic and a serene energy," he says. "and thinking about the evolution of women from decades past, to now."