With judge May Martin making a surprise departure from The Great British Sewing Bee, it was announced in February that Esme Young was to join Patrick Grant in casting an eye over the sewists’ creations in GBSB series 4.
Co-founder of cutting-edge clothing label Swanky Modes in the 1980s and creator of some of the big screen’s most iconic costumes (including Bridget Jones’ famous bunny outfit), Esme brings years of sewing experience, a few “brain-teasing challenges” and pattern-cutting expertise to the show (along with an impressive jewellery collection – we had serious bling envy!).
So, how did Esme get involved in the Sewing Bee? It was all down to a chance meeting with a member of the Great British Sewing Bee production team at a party a few years ago, which Esme says “shows you never know what’s around the corner.”
She’s the first to admit that she prefers to be behind the camera than in front of it, but she “didn’t practice in front of a mirror or anything,” instead crediting fellow judge Patrick Grant and presenter Claudia Winkleman with helping her to feel at ease: “It was terrifying! It’s something I’ve never done before, but Claudia, Patrick and the crew made it easy. Claudia made it feel fun and Patrick looked after me.”
Accustomed to giving feedback to her students in her role as a pattern-cutting tutor at Central Saint Martins in London, she found that it was “difficult not to help the contestants – I did a little bit early on. It was hard not to tell them when it’s going to be a disaster!”
When judging their efforts, she looked for “What I like to call really good sewing. I get a bit obsessive about how clothes are finished! But I also want to be surprised – I want to see their personalities in the garments. It’s nebulous – you don’t know it until you see it.”
What stood out to her most was the sense of camaraderie amongst the contestants: “What’s fantastic is they learn from each other and it becomes a community. I’m sure they’ll be friends for life.”
The Great British Sewing Bee returns to BBC2 in May.
All Great British Sewing Bee images copyright BBC/Love Productions/Charlotte Medlicott