Innovative shoe brand ESSĒN aims to combine classic style with a modern twist. Founded by colleagues and friends Prue and Marre in Melbourne, their first collection offers a series of essentials that move beyond trend driven fashion. Today, they operate from both New York and London, combining their busy work schedules with a sincere passion for timeless design. Now that is what we call entrepreneurship!
Hi Prue and Marre. How is the weather in London at the moment?
Prue: A bit drizzly, to be honest!
How did you guys meet?
Marre: We met at a fashion and design agency called Paper Stone Scissors, located in Melbourne. We both started at the same time and had an immediate connection. Prue worked in art direction and I had a background in branding and strategy. We both love shoes, but found ourselves often discussing about what is still missing in the shoe industry.
What is missing?
Marre: When looking at what was out there, we noticed that shoe brands tend to position themselves in two categories. On the one hand, there are brands that produce trend driven styles for an accessible price. Contrary, we see brands that produce timeless designs in a more luxury segment. There is a huge gap between these two segments and we found ourselves missing a shoe brand that produces qualitative and timeless designs, but with a more accessible price.
How did you turn this insight into a clear idea?
Prue: We started brainstorming about what types of shoes we would personally wear throughout the week. We agreed on only designing one silhouette per shoe type, forcing ourselves to design a collection that only contains the essentials. This enabled us to really take the time and make every design perfect.
Marre: ESSĒN shoes are essential and classic, but with a modern twist. Comfort is extremely important to us and we aim to constantly show our shoes in new ways. We also see ESSĒN as a brand that takes on a supporting role when it comes to our consumers, emphasizing on how the shoes can be worn. The quality and designs of our shoes match those of a luxury product, while still maintaining an accessible price.
Is it hard to balance commerciality and authenticity?
Prue: It is not necessarily hard, but it is very important to remember the importance of it. Timeless designs that stand the test of time is something that we find very important. However, we do need to think about what our consumer wants. Do we need to sharpen the silhouette? Is this color accessible enough? We are very proud that we were able to create a collection that we would also want to wear personally.
Could you describe the creative scene in Melbourne? What is unique about it?
Marre: The creative scene in Melbourne is incredible and people are willing to take risks. Art, music, food and culture feel more authentic in Melbourne, because the city is actually quite isolated. The atmosphere in the city is also quite practical and I guess that is where our value for comfort comes from.
How does the design process works?
Marre: Our process is very collaborative and ideas come from everywhere. Prue currently works in New York and I just started a new job in London. Although we both have our own responsibilities, there is also a lot of overlap and we both need to be flexible in the work that we do. This is essential in a long distance work relationship!
Prue: The Luxe Loafer, for example, is very much a shoe style that has been around for many years. Originally, it was a shoe design that was worn by both men and woman. This piece of heritage is something that we wanted to maintain. In subtle detailing, we then carefully change certain elements to make it more modern.
Do you have a favorite?
Prue: The Modern Oxford. You can also take out the laces and wear it as a slip on shoe!
Marre: I would have to say The Luxe Loafer.
How do you maintain quality?
Prue: We work with an incredible factory in Italy. We really value their commitment, because our quantities are not necessarily interesting for every manufacturer. We source our own materials and are very much involved in the production process. It is incredible to sit with the people that produce our shoes and to see how they work with the material. There is so much technicality to shoe production and we find it very important to stay involved as much as we can.
Are there any trends when looking at the shoe industry that we should keep an eye on?
Prue: We see that an increasing number of brands reject the current fashion calendar. This new movement of slow(er) fashion is something that we find super valuable, because it forces consumers to make more considered decisions when it comes to consuming fashion.