Couture bridal and eveningwear designer Esé Azénabor has debuted her ready-to-wear collection in her new boutique in Southampton Village, which opened in August. This new residence joins the designer’s Madison Avenue and Dallas locations.
Azénabor, who was born in Nigeria, designs for clients that love art and appreciate the craftsmanship that goes into each bespoke garment. Azénabor is known for her hand beading, using fine crystals, stones and pearls, on fine French lace and tulle, and her structuring with hymo fabric, hard tulle, and boning. All of her creations are made by hand by artisans in Dallas.
We caught up with the designer to learn more.
Tell us about your background. When did you know you wanted to be a designer?
I started sewing and deconstructing my mother’s luxury garments around 8 years old. As a young child, I was fascinated with beautiful clothing and wanted to understand how to make something with that level of construction. I knew I wanted to be a designer around that same time, but that dream wouldn’t come to fruition until moving to Dallas with plans to pursue a master’s degree and starting my own line instead.
As a self-taught designer, tell us about the process of learning the intricate hand beading and embroidery that you are known for.
I made my first dress at 8 years old and I have been obsessed with fashion long before then. My first garment was a two-piece set made by hand. It was a three-tier skirt and a long sleeve top. I made it out of an upholstery fabric that my parents bought to refurbish our couch, so I got in a lot of trouble for that. After creating my first garment, I became obsessed with making clothes by hand. I didn’t learn to use a sewing machine until my 20s, so I perfected my hand sewing over those early years. I would take apart pieces of clothing and put them back together to learn how they were constructed. Different types of hems, attaching a sleeve, adding lining to a gown, understanding why some gowns need one lining and some need two or more, why we use French seams in some gowns and serge others, why some hems need horsehair for volume and shape and others need a roll hem. I taught myself the basics of couture first, then developed my own way of creating garments.
After opening a store in Dallas and on Madison Avenue, what inspired your move to Southampton?
Opening the Southampton location was a “pinch-me” moment. After creating our second showroom on Madison Avenue and expanding our brand to the Upper East Side, we saw an opportunity to bring Esé Azénabor to a new client base with more readily available, easily wearable pieces that suit the lifestyle of the Hamptons woman.
How have traditional Nigerian weddings inspired your bridal designs?
Nigerian garments are very rich in color and texture which I’ve always been drawn to, and I love mixing different colors and textures into my creations and giving them a more modern feel.
You’ve recently launched your ready-to-wear collection. Tell us about that.
The ready-to-wear collection is new for us and is an exciting way to bring my favorite design elements to clients that need a gown quickly at a more affordable price-point, but don’t want to sacrifice the couture aesthetic. I’ve never shied away from color, and I love to bring vibrant shades and patterns to simple, elegant silhouettes that can be worn by anyone for any occasion.
What about the East End inspires you?
After a trip to the East End with my family when visiting the Madison Avenue location, I fell in love with the charm of the area and when an opportunity came about for us to open a store there, I jumped at the chance — especially because it coincided with my plans to debut my ready-to-wear line.