Esprit: Quintessential California Cool

The Esprit brand was founded in 1968, in the heyday of the hippie movement. Learn the story behind this cult brand that still embodies the ideals of freedom and solidarity and captures the spirit of change of the time.


A very 70s story

It all started when Susie Russell offered the hitchhiking Doug Tompkins a ride in her Volkswagen Beetle on Route 89. Three months later the lovebirds were married, and within five years they’d started their own clothing line, Esprit de Corp—soon shortened to simply Esprit. The logo, created in 1979, is still used today.

The Esprit brand was truly a product of its time. The values of corporate environmental and social responsibility have always been central to its mission. Susie and Doug were buying organic cotton to make their clothing long before sustainable fashion entered the mainstream.

Esprit de corps

The brand was built around values of positivity, self-expression, and “feeling good and looking good.” In the 80s, the Esprit aesthetic was bright and colourful and captured the laid-back California vibe. The stores were designed by famous architects who brought this inspiration to life. Esprit also broke the mould by launching an ad campaign featuring its own employees rather than models. 

The brand has always been willing to speak out on controversial issues and to back causes that align with its values—from defending the rights of LGBTQ+ communities to incorporating an HIV awareness campaign in its advertising. The concepts of environmental responsibility and sustainability drive corporate decision-making. At Esprit, social responsibility, solidarity, and open-mindedness aren’t just marketing tactics, they’re the values that have defined the brand since the beginning.

The “Real People” movement started with an ad campaign featuring models who weren’t models, and has continued to be a core strategy over the years because it embodies the brand ethos: making clothing, shoes, and accessories that simply bring out the best in everyone.


The spirit of Esprit—in eyewear

Esprit frames have an easy-going style that suits many different personalities. Colourful touches and creative details set them apart, but they are still very modern and approachable.

As with the clothing line, frames come in an ECOllection made of biosourced materials—in this case, castor oil. By manufacturing high-quality, durable frames from 100% natural castor oil, the company has been able to reduce its carbon footprint. Esprit has also partnered with the WeForest organization to plant a tree for every pair of ECOllection glasses sold. 



After more than 50 years in business, Esprit has never strayed from its core values. Living simply, being comfortable, and looking great are what have driven Esprit’s success in more than 40 countries. The Esprit eyewear collection is available in many Opto-Réseau clinics. It’s time to start California dreamin’!