As Esprit gains a foothold on Copenhagen Fashion Week, branding guru and Esprit’s global chief brand officer Ana Andjelic breaks down why Esprit and the Nordics are a perfect fit
Esprit is well and truly back. Buoyed by nostalgia for all things mid-'80s-to-early-'90s and characterised by its iconic stencil logo, the heritage sportswear brand began its great comeback about three years ago, with the appointment a new CEO, William Pak. The other person at the centre of the Esprit resurgence? Ana Andjelic. A bona fide branding guru (she’s cracked Forbes’ top CMO list not once, but twice), Andjelic became Esprit’s Global Chief Brand Officer in 2022 and is responsible for the brand’s new vision in Europe, notably in Scandinavia.
“I got a cold call on LinkedIn from the CEO saying ‘I’m the CEO of Esprit, do you want to chat?’” says Andjelic when I ask her how she got the gig. “Esprit was one of those things that you just don’t think about.” Still, her overall association with the brand was “positive” and Andjelic, who also led the most recent rebranding of Banana Republic, immediately saw an opportunity. “Esprit really had a place in culture,” she says.
Despite the brand’s global reach, Andjelic’s approach with Esprit has been fairly grassroots: activating local communities through events, working with micro influencers (“If you attach yourself to an ambassador, you become identified with that particular person, and that’s very dangerous,” she says. “Micro influencers start creating those little waves”).
Andjelic’s latest move was making Esprit’s presence known during Copenhagen Fashion Week, where we met for coffee just before the shows kick off. There, the brand presented the latest edition of its ‘Fundom’ event series, for which the brand invites local designers to reimagine classic Esprit pieces. In Copenhagen, it tapped knitwear designer Nadia Wire and jewellery designer Louise Cehofski. “The whole idea of it is fashion craftmanship,” says Adjelic. “What [the designers] did is unbelievable. They deconstructed Esprit and created something new from that. That is always inherent in Esprit – that creative collaboration.” In addition to the event, Esprit was announced as an official sponsor of Copenhagen Fashion Week, including the NewTalent programme, which provides financial assistance to emerging Nordic designers.
But why, exactly, are Copenhagen and Esprit such a strong match? “What Esprit was, and what it is, is urban sport,” says Andjelic. “And what Scandinavians have is that urban sport aspect, because you can hop on a bike but you are still dressed for a metropolitan setting.” This lies in contrast to the US, which is split by the traditions of prep and workwear. The urban sport tradition, she tells me, is relatively new in the US, led by designers like Calvin Klein, Halston and Donna Karen. In Scandinavia, however, our prevailing sportswear aesthetic is directly aligned with Esprit’s sportswear-in-the-city ethos. “And then, brand wise, it’s that individuality, creativity, colour, bold prints, that sort of expression,” she says. “So both on the brand side and the product side, it’s very similar territory.” Unsurprisingly, the response here in the Nordics has been overwhelmingly positive.
The Esprit renaissance has just begun. Up next, more Fundom events across Europe – Paris, Madrid, and London, before they take on the US. “It’s a comeback tour, like The Rolling Stones,” says Andjelic. “You know when they go on tour, they play their greatest hits, but they mix in something new.”