Fashion designer and entrepreneur Bethany Chard started By Esme Rose as a side project and now her Liverpool venture has taken off with her designs being worn by Love Island stars. Tony McDonough reports
Back in 2018 fashion design graduate Bethany Chard was designing outfits for herself and friends while working for a textiles supplier for leading high street brands.
But by early 2019 demand for her talents had grown significantly and the 28-year-old from Wallasey decided to set up By Esme Rose as a side project. Two years and Bethany now runs the brand full-time from a base in north Liverpool.
By Esme Rose now boasts more than 47,000 followers on Instagram and has dressed Love Island stars Maura Higgins, Amber Davies, Elle Brown and Demi Jones. She now has big plans for expansion.
Having studied at Liverpool Community College for two years before completing her degree at Liverpool John Moore’s University in fashion design, Bethany went on to design for the high street working for Manchester-based suppliers Visage. It supplied brands such Lipsy, Next, New Look and Primark.
Travelling the world, Bethany soaked up the experience, venturing to various suppliers abroad before she set up By Esme Rose. The business started off as a hobby, creating outfits for herself and her friends for nights out and special occasions and it wasn’t long before she was inundated.
“When I started off I didn’t really have confidence in creating a business,” she said. “I began with three designs and my mum took pictures of me on an old iPhone and I uploaded them to Instagram.
“They were terrible quality but I was blown away by how many orders I received. It just goes to show that my customers genuinely liked the designs as I’ve never had a team or had experience in social media or building a brand.”
From there, Bethany became increasingly busier and decided to take the plunge, quit her job and put her all into By Esme Rose full time. She added: “Esme Rose is my middle name and so it felt natural to name the brand after myself.
“I’ve been a one team company since I started and absolutely everything from design to manufacturing, to modelling the clothing, managing the social media, packaging the parcels and sending them was all down to me.
“Only recently has this become impossible with how the brand has continued to grow and so I’ve hired two seamstresses to help me and a social media assistant.”
When Bethany first left her job in March 2019, she was making the outfits in her mum’s box room but quickly outgrew the space. Renting a small room in a building on Dale Street, the fashion designer thought she was in the right place – in the heart of Liverpool city centre.
“I couldn’t have been more wrong! The building was really corporate and I just didn’t fit in,” she explained. “My neighbours were accountants and solicitors. I had people getting changed in the communal toilets and I look back now and cringe. I just had to make the best of the situation.
“The day before the first lockdown I moved to a bigger room at Oh Darlin, a salon based at Dunes Way in north Liverpool and it’s the perfect fit. I’m in a very girly environment, next to cosmetics, hair and laser.”
During the pandemic Bethany saw By Esme Rose continue to grow, getting involved in Love Island and Dancing On Ice star Maura Higgins’ footwear campaign with Ego. She also dressed Love Island contestants Elle Brown, Demi Jones and winner turned West End star Amber Davies.
Bethany added: “Being asked to be part of Maura’s national campaign with Ego was surreal and she looked absolutely stunning. For the business, it’s amazing to dress a celebrity as their huge followings mean that millions of people see my designs and we get a massive surge in orders.”
As her business continues to grow, Bethany’s goal in the next five years is to have her own warehouse with a team of seamstresses, a social media and web team, and since she’s never invested in marketing, she’d love to try it and see how it can take By Esme Rose to the next level.
Bethany also wants to release campaigns more regularly and have a bigger and better shop where her customers can visit to buy off the rail and see even more celebrities in her designs.