Behind the Seams – Esme Young

Published By: Blink Publishing
Pages: 288
Released On: 14/04/2022

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, or too late to pick up a needle and start stitching in a new direction.


Is there anyone out there who doesn’t instantly fall in love with Esme Young when they see her?

I’ll answer that.


She is a national treasure and her life story is incredibly fascinating.

It was during the last season of Sewing Bee that I said out loud, “I hope Esme brings out a book one day”. I then logged onto Amazon and saw she had released one only days earlier. It was like the stars had aligned.

She is an absolute inspiration. I know some people don’t like to be called an inspiration or an idol as it’s too much pressure, but she is. She is a gorgeous woman…and she has Patrick Grant on speed-dial which I am insanely jealous of.

For many years, I’ve been designing dresses – day, business and evening. They’re not for me to wear and I’m not making them (I can barely sew a button on), I just draw them, and I have countless sketchbooks strewn around the house. Every so often I get this mad idea to get patterns made and to try and make them, but then I remember how much is involved in making a garment and I forget about it. And Esme has proved that whilst it was her dream, it does involve a lot of work and I’m not sure I’m up to it. But just designing them keeps one foot in the door and relaxes me; and you never know, one day I may get my catwalk moment.

Esme’s story is amazing and documents her life from childhood, through to Swanky Modes and teaching, to starring on The Great British Sewing Bee. The book is full of funny and interesting anecdotes, and I think the name dropping in anyone else’s hands would seem egotistical and a bit like they were bragging, but in Esme’s hands, it sounds so genuine and I was fascinated to see the calibre of people she was working with/for.

There’s a fair bit of technical jargon about sewing which aren’t everyday vernacular for those not in the industry, but Esme has found a good balance between the technicalities and the explanations.She hasn’t dumbed them down but she’s done a very good job of explaining things when she needs to, and I found myself learning things too.

Sewing and dressmaking used to be a necessity, when money or rations were tight, clothes had to be mended and refit for younger generations. And to a certain degree, it still it. But it’s definitely more of a passion nowadays, in my view. And Esme has been a huge part of that. She’s made sewing and dressmaking a fun pastime and people who you would never have thought would enjoy it are glued to their telly screens every week.

Before reading the book, I got the feeling that Esme would be a very warm person, always happy to stop and talk to you in the street. Now I’ve finished it, I’m even more certain of that. I feel she would make you feel like a close friend, even if you were strangers. You can hear her voice in every word and it feels like you’re sitting with her having a chat over a cup of tea.

Her story is warming and funny, interesting, educational and entertaining, and I can’t wait to see what this new act of her life brings in the years to come.

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