Understated style and mindful substance
ESSĒN – understated style and mindful substance
»ESSĒN encourages people to buy less, choose better and wear longer.«
Hello Marre, please tell us a little bit about yourself. What have you done before you founded your label?
After studying International Fashion Management in the Netherlands, I moved to Australia and was a bit of an all-rounder in my early career working in various roles in the creative industries. It prepared me to run my own business.
I then embarked on a career as Brand Manager at a footwear wholesaler in Australia, learning the ins and outs of product development and what it takes to make a beautiful shoe. Travelling around the world, visiting different factories and understanding the technical process really sparked my love of shoes.
But during this time, I also saw how much waste was happening in the industry. I grew creatively exhausted and increasingly frustrated by the relentless cycles and endless pursuit of newness.
When and why did you decide to come up with your own label?
I founded ESSĒN as a response to a fashion cycle that overproduces more than it carefully crafts, chases trends more than it determines classics, and wastes more than it sustains. ESSĒN encourages people to buy less, choose better and wear longer. I aspire to simplify women’s wardrobes, by helping them consider what they really need and edit out excess.
That’s where the name comes from: essentials. Our offer is a permanent collection of no-compromise staples and timeless classics that are reimagined in new ways that feel chic without any effort.
Despite working in the footwear industry at that time, I could not find quality, timeless and comfortable shoes that were ethically made, without the designer price tag.
After having this conversation with friends one too many times, I decided I was going to try and create the perfect collection of quality wardrobe staples myself. So, I launched ESSĒN in 2016, which has enabled me to carve out my own path.
What makes ESSĒN shoes so special?
All our shoes are made in Italy, Portugal and Spain. Our styles are limited releases, created in small production runs or entirely made-to-order. This allows us to take the utmost care when creating our pieces, designing every detail to ensure lasting appeal and timeless sophistication.
Our products reflect this longevity through superior craftsmanship and exceptional fit. We work with local, family-run factories who have been making shoes for generations. They are responsible for the long-lasting constructions of every pair we make.
From the leather selection, the engineering of the lasts, the pattern cuts and the hand finishing of the shoes; our entire range is handmade by people who place care into every single pair produced.
How do you define your take on sustainability?
I don’t identify ESSĒN to be a sustainable brand, but ‘sustainability’ is at the center of everything I do. We don’t know if fashion can ever be sustainable, but we try and do better by designing better systems and being as responsible as we can every day.
We always prioritize using leather that is sourced from Leather Working Group (LWG) Gold & Silver-certified tanneries that are committed to chemical innovation and lower impact methods. We are as well working closely with our supply chain to trace the hides we use back to the farm level, to assure zero deforestation policies are in place.
We constantly challenge ourselves to do more for our customers, and the world we share. For example, we’ve partnered with RePack, a reusable and returnable packaging alternative made from recycled materials.
By choosing reusable packaging we can save up to 80% of carbon emissions compared to single-use waste. It’s a small step that makes a big difference and part of our ongoing journey to become a more responsible business.
What are your future plans?
We’re working on new sustainable initiatives and materials — footwear supply chains are hugely complex but we’re determined to create a more transparent supply chain through blockchain technology, which is very exciting.
We’ve been researching sustainable leather alternatives too which is a huge undertaking, and we also have new essential launching in a few months. This year the plan is to open an ESSEN space in Melbourne too. Our focus has always been on slow and sustainable growth, but we have big dreams. I’m hopeful we can balance both.