Esme Young is one part of BBC 2’s ‘Great British Sewing Bee’ judging duo, joining the show in 2016. The show follows a group of talented amateur sewers who, along with Patrick Grant, encounter different sewing challenges each week. The programme is hosted by Claudia Winkleman and is watched by 3.4 million viewers.
Esme, along with four passionate women about fashion, opened a London based shop called ‘Swanky Modes’ in early 80’s. Their clothes appeared in magazines and newspapers including Vogue, Nova, Honey, 19, ID, The Face, Boulevard, Interview, The Sunday Times, Express, Mail, and the V&A Little Black Dress Book. Swanky Modes’s clothing was photographed by renowned photographers such as Helmut Newton, David Bailey, Nick Knight, John Swannell, Neil Kirk. The iconic shop attracts a diverse clientele and has been visited by Julie Chrtistie, Toyah Wilcox, Princess Julia, Midge Ure, Bette Bright, Viv Albertine, and Grace Jones.
In the mid 80’s Esme started doing work with independent stylists and costume designers which led her to opening her own studio. She began working with various talent on films, adverts, pop videos and made bespoke clothes.
Esme typically makes costumes for a film’s leading actors. This meticulous process involves understanding the context, the cultural and the fashion references of the film’s time and setting. She utilizes her broad set of skills by providing advice, sourcing fabric, collaborating with the costume designer, fitting and producing the garments.
Some of the high profile campaigns Young has worked for include: Tia Maria (with Iman), Levi’s, Boots No 7, Marlborough, De Beers, Pretty Polly tights, Max Factor, Yardley and Rimmel. She has also been a part of an individual commission for Phil Collins, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Cher and Jane Asher.
Esme mentored and taught designer Ashish until he became a professional fashion designer. Following his success, she worked on his London Fashion Week collections, cutting patterns and creating the shape of the designs, making the toiles and doing the fittings.
Young developed sewing and pattern cutting techniques for underwear and swimwear which commenced her to work on special projects for ‘Triumph underwear’ and ‘L’Oreal’.
In her free time, Esme teaches Innovative Pattern Cutting for graduates and professionals students at Central Saint Martin’s College. Esme uses hands on experience of design, pattern cutting and clothes making to move students’s imagination and help them interpret their drawings so they can develop the designs into actual garments.
Films Esme has worked on:
Saint-Ex (Director Anand Tucker) 1996, outfits for Miranda Richardson and Janet McTeer
Trainspotting (Danny Boyle) 1996, Dale Winton’s pink lurex suit and his assistant’s dress
Fierce Creatures (Fred Schepisi, Robert Young) 1997, Jamie Lee Curtis
Wonderland (Michael Winterbottom) 1999
The Beach (Danny Boyle) 2000, outfits for Leonardo DiCaprio and Tilda Swinton
Bridget Jones’ Diary (Sharon Maguire) 2001, Renee Zellweger’s bunny outfit, the skirt at the fire station and Honor Blackman’s outfit
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (John Madden) 2001
28 Days Later (Danny Boyle) 2002
24 Hour Party People (Michael Winterbottom) 2002, outfits for Steve Coogan
Heartlands (Damien O’Donnell) 2002
Code 46 (Michael Winterbottom) 2003
Agent Cody Banks (Harold Zwart) 2003, made the girls’ DJs and the African rulers outfit
Derailed (Mikael Hafstrom) 2005
Breaking and Entering (Anthony Mingella) 2006, made outfits for Juliette Binoche
1408 (Mikael Hafstrom) 2007, made John Cusack’s shirts
Last Chance Harvey (Joel Hopkins) 2008, outfits for Emma Thompson
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (Mark Herman) 2008
Is Anybody There? (John Crowley) 2008
The Debt (John Madden) 2010
Never Let Me Go (Mark Romanek) 2010, outfits for Carey Mulligan and Charlotte Rampling
Wuthering Heights (Andrea Arnold) 2011, young Cathy outfits
Appropriate Adult (Julian Jarrold) 2011, outfits for Emily Watson
Le Weekend (Roger Michell) 2013, Lindsey Duncan
Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer) 2013
The Riot Club (Lone Scherfig) 2014
Black Sea (Kevin MacDonald) 2014, Jude Law’s shirts
Two Faces of January (Hossein Amini) 2014, Kirsten Dunst’s outfits
A Monster Calls (JA Bayona) 2016, outfits for Felicity Jones and Sigourney Weaver
Esme Young is one part of BBC 2’s ‘Great British Sewing Bee’ judging duo, joining the show in 2016. The show follows a group of talented amateur sewers who, along with Patrick Grant, encounter different sewing challenges each week. The programme is watched by 3.4 million viewers. Her memoir, Behind the Seams: My Life in Creativity, Friendship and Adventure, will be published by Blink in April 2022
Top Ten Sunday Times Bestseller
From adventures at Central Saint Martins to The Great British Sewing Bee, go behind the seams of Esme Young's amazing life...
At age five, Esme was asked to write in her notebook, but instead, she filled it with drawings - the only way she knew to express herself. At seven, when it was discovered she was partially deaf, she found refuge in her sketchbooks. Shortly after, Esme made her first garment and a passion for sewing and designing was born. As a teenager, she made her way to London where her creative journey truly began.
Living in a squat with other young creatives, Esme made the most of her time; studying at Central Saint Martins, launching a clothing line called Swanky Modes with three friends and £50 each, watching Notting Hill Carnival with David Bowie, and altering a dress for Cher. The '90s saw a career move into costumes for films, where she designed outfits for Trainspotting, Bridget Jones's Diary and The Beach, before she moved onto the small screen herself.
A celebration of a creative life lived differently, Behind the Seams is a reminder that it's never too early, too late or too soon to pick up a needle and start stitching in a new direction...