The Esprit Flashback Archive Serves up All the Wintery 80s Nostalgia You Need This Christmas

Esprit’s former art director Tamotsu Yagi has expanded the archive even further with a huge donation of 80s visuals. The archive is now jam-packed with over 3,200 pieces of Esprit memorabilia. 

Esprit Flashback is the world’s largest archive of 1980s Esprit items. It’s giving us the best of Wham’s Last Christmas, Lady Diana’s ski vacations and all the 80s camp references we could ask for. The collection carefully preserves anything related to one of the most iconic fashion brands from that decade and amasses over 30 years worth of content – take that Instagram! 

Tamotsu Yagi’s latest donation includes some super niche pieces of memorabilia including the packaging labels for the food made in the Esprit cafe and samples of the popular shoe boxes that featured prominently as part of in-store visual merchandising also make up the significant haul. Other donations are rare items which come from the Esprit Graphic Work 1984-1986 book as well as the Esprit 25th Anniversary catalogue.  

For those unfamiliar with Yagi, he is a true 80s fashion icon. Appointed as the art director for Esprit in 1984, he was in charge of the brand’s visual presentation and most importantly is credited with creating the iconic ‘Esprit graphic look’, which helped the company win the AIGA design leadership award in 1986. Furthermore, in 1990 he became one of the youngest members of Alliance Graphique International.

Yagi cites Douglas Tompkins as the force behind his decision to donate to the archive. “Tompkins believed in the preservation and power of print in its ability to pass on ideas worth sharing,” he reveals. “As I look through my own archive of graphic materials from the ESPRIT days, I am reminded of this message and wish to pass on these artefacts for generations to come.”

For Esprit Flashback founder Michelle Koza, this donation is something special and personal. “Mr Yagi and his work inspired me to study graphic design, and after I graduated from design school, I had the opportunity to meet him.,” she explains. “It feels like a full-circle moment to receive this generous gift from Mr Yagi, and I am ecstatic! These items will contribute greatly to building a complete picture of what the Esprit brand was and stood for during the 1980s.

For us millennials and Gen Z, it’s hard to understand from a first hand perspective just how revolutionary Esprit’s designs and visuals truly were to previous generations. “I collected Esprit clothing for years before officially starting the archive in 2017 when a friend passed away and left me her collection of 1,800 artefacts,” adds Michelle Koza. “Building the archive has been a labour of love and, in this past year and a half of worrisome news from around the globe, it has also been a happy blast from the past of better times and amusing memories of my awkward teenage youth.”

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