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Esprit de Court 

How Susie Tompkins Buell built, wrecked, and sued San Francisco's legendary Esprit de Corp. clothing company, and why she still gets to sit next to President Clinton

Wednesday, Oct 8 1997
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Page 8 of 8

"The floor was covered in sisal carpeting and small cafe tables with little chairs there and an oyster bar," says event designer Stanlee R. Gatti. "It was all burgundy. The center portion had an island with different levels to put liquor on. It had simple elements with a raised area where liquor goes, in a simple oval shape. They danced to the Count Basie Orchestra."

This is as it should be, Tompkins Buell says.
"You know, I really believe people should have fun in this world," she says, before drifting, in the same, uninterrupted sentence, into a lament about the opaque smog that recently formed over Indonesia as a result of forest fires. "I just think we don't know what we are doing to ourselves."

These ideas are part of the same basic, modern, clean, and comfortable Esprit garment. Lawsuits; Earth First!; leveraged buyouts; political fund-raising; copyrighted cakes and burgundy carpeting -- all might be summed up by one of Susie Tompkins Buell's more famous newspaper quotes:

"Social awareness is the lifestyle fashion."
Or, as she now says, a bit less obtusely, "It's a real inspiration to me to live up to that name: Esprit de Corp.

About The Author

Matt Smith

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